Teenagers have a lot to worry about during this phase of life and they are more prone to it due to their developmental changes, particularly in the brain.
We are only ever as happy as our unhappiest child so how we can help our teens when they worry?
1. First, encourage them to sit with it. This may sound counterintuitive but whatever you resist will persist. The whole idea of emotions (and that’s what worry is), is to PROCESS them, move THROUGH them not shut them away. Those creepies you lock away in the closet are not disappearing into Narnia land, sorry to say.
2. Be curious. Emotions are data; information revealing what’s really going on. So, try to help your child understand the nature of it and if it’s a signpost for something. Exam pressure? Friendship drama? Growing up and learning about themselves? There are a hundred different things it could be, encourage them to hold space for themselves and see what lies beneath.
3. Don’t fix. By now you’re thinking, does this dude really know what’s she’s talking about??!! First, she tells me to stay with the worry, now she’s telling me not to fix it!! Don’t worry (huh, see what I did there?!), we are definitely looking for solutions but they’re not necessarily going to come from you. Help your child come up with their own ideas about how to move through and beyond the worry. When our kids, especially now their teenagers and have abstract thinking, come up with their own solutions, research tells us the solutions have a deeper and more lasting impact. Empower your teenager to problem solve.
4. Look at what you can control versus what you can’t control. It’s empowering yet kinda disheartening to learn just how little we have control over. BUT it’s ultimately incredibly liberating to fully accept that we can only ever TRULY control our own thoughts, feelings and actions. Sure, we can heavily influence external factors but in the end, most things are out of your control. Check out this great article on locus of control.
5. Finally, what relaxation techniques does your teenager have? These are lifelong practices for a life well lived. There is no substitute or short cut around self-care. Now, more than ever before, we need to teach our young people how to take good care of their mental health and wellbeing. Bubble bath anyone?