Championing Teens with Anxiety

By April Huard, Off-Campus Program Advisor

As a teenager, Solome Tibebu struggled with a debilitating anxiety disorder that affected every area of her life. Although she suffered silently for many years, afraid to share her secret thoughts with even her family, she credits her father for helping her finally manage and overcome her fear and anxiousness. In her 2015 TEDx Talk, Solome offers this guidance to parents of anxious teens: “Be a champion for them.”

This seems easy enough on the surface, but championing someone with anxiety can be a complicated and uncertain process. And studies show that more and more parents are navigating the waters of anxiety with their children—at least 1 in 8.

So what can the increasing number of families with anxious children do to support and help them? Here are a few ideas:

  • Decompression—The beauty of homeschooling is that it uniquely allows for a time of decompression, especially if the anxious student is recovering from the pressures of a traditional school system. Decompressions can be filled with hobbies, relationship building, and journaling. A break from the stress of academics can be a time of personal growth and healing for teens.
  • Community—When Solome Tibebu was dealing with anxiety as a teen, she realized she needed a community where she could share her struggles and hear others’ stories. Not finding one, she started an online magazine for young adults with anxiety and other mental health challenges. Teens who struggle with anxiety can visit Anxiety in Teens to connect with others.
  • Mindfulness—According to Mindful, “Mindfulness is the…ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” This practice can give teens a sense of control over their anxiety; it can teach them inner resilience and give them a way to control their stress. The Headspace meditation app teaches mindfulness in just a few minutes a day.
  • Normalization of Failure—Helping kids fail well is an important part of parenting an anxious teen. Teens who have never experienced, recovered from, or learned from failure can be anxious about the possibility of not always achieving at a high level. Parents can allow kids to fail, help them see the lessons in failure, and emphasize that their love is not dependent on their kids’ successes.
  • Therapies—Some students may benefit from one of the many therapies designed to help kids with deep-seated anxiety. Art therapy, equine therapy, and exposure therapy are just a few of the options that can be explored with a medical professional.

In the end, championing a child with anxiety involves a lot of listening, patience, and unconditional love. A parent or guardian can be a safe place for their teens’ fears and uncertainties in a world that often feels pressurized and intimidating.

Further Reading

Do you have a teen struggling with anxiety? What strategies are helping them cope and thrive?

One Response

  1. Dear April,

    All my children were school-highly anxious (the second one, Lourenço, seems to have learned a lot from the eldest school pain and relaxed but got out much earlier thanks to his brother experience) because here school generally is a stereotyped classroom for hidden competition and exclusion. Homeschooling has been a very demanding, as you know, freedom and it is amazing how students develop and get joy as individuals.

    I am sure all these children will succeed and will one day change the unhappy circumstances they had to face.

    Thank you for your thoughts! Cristina

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