Teen Mental Health

Thursday, May 23, 2019 - 13:30

How to Recognise Anxiety in Teenagers

The hidden signs and how to approach it.


Arnold Best

Most adults seem to believe that teenagers don’t go through, or should have, any stress. They would say, “They have a roof over their heads,” or, “They don’t have to go out to work everyday, so why should they be stressed?” Let me share a little secret with you...(*cue a whispering voice*) sometimes they do!


Is your teen often flustered, irritable or completely exhausted? Is he or she hesitant to go to school or often feel sick due to worry? Are they anxious when you talk about what’s to come in the future, like career plans? Do they burn themselves out by committing to too many social or school-related activities? Feeling some level of stress is normal, but if your child is constantly tense or losing sleep, it’s time to do something. Here’s how you can help to alleviate stress in children and teens.


In our society, I have come to realise that most children aren’t always able to communicate candidly with their parents. That’s why it’s important for parents to approach the topic and openly speak to their children about stress. Ask them what is driving them to take on so much. Do they think they are worthy enough? Are they trying to please you? Are they trying to keep up with their peers? Are they taking the arguments between mom and dad to heart?


Teenagers are often fearful about the unknown. Most of all, they’re afraid to fail. They’re afraid to disappoint their parents. They’re worried about not being enough. Find out if your teen has something specific that’s at the base of their fear. When you can understand the root cause of their anxiety, you can lovingly soothe their fears and guide them toward a solution.


As parents, you need to manage your expectations as well. When speaking to your teen, do you place unwarranted pressure on them? Every parent wants their child to succeed, but we sometimes express this desire in ways that are actually harmful to their mental health. Focus only on what you and your teen can control. Set an action plan with your child in terms of future growth, and ask them what they want to achieve, but don’t place sky-high expectations on them. For instance, if your child is talented in the sciences but also enjoys a more creative field like writing, it can be tempting to discuss your dreams of them becoming a doctor or an engineer. You’re trying to steer them toward a respectable, profitable profession, but if your child really wants to be a teacher or journalist, you might be putting unwarranted pressure on them. The more you pressure your child to act a certain way, the less comfortable they’ll be in coming to you when they do encounter problems. Know this: “Stress is the achiever’s word for fear.”


Sometimes, normal stressors in your child’s life can be intensified by a poor diet and exercise routine. Is your teenager living off of pizza and doubles? Does your child regularly drink down on a 2-litre soft drink? Or feast on sugary snacks? Children need proper nutrition, just like adults. The same is true with exercise. Don’t assume your teenager is getting all the necessary exercise they need at school. By ensuring your child is eating and exercising properly, they’ll not only feel better, but they’ll relieve teen stress, gain endorphins and be able to create a healthier sleep cycle.


On top of dealing with school, looking toward the future and participating in extracurricular activities, your child is involved in a slew of social activities. This can either benefit your child immensely or stress them out. There are a lot of societal pressures on teenagers; check in with your child to see if they’re having issues with bullying, being pressured into experimenting with substances or are having unsafe relationships online. Social media is an added layer of pressure for teens these days. When teens and adult influencers are able to highlight the best portions of their lives on social media, their peers can often feel inadequate in comparison.


Everyone deals with stress to some degree, but if your teenager is being negatively affected, it’s time to take action. Always let your child know that you have their best interest at heart, and that it’s alright for them to come to you with any problems they face.


Teach them that “the real joy in life comes from finding your true purpose and aligning it with what you do every single day.” Don’t let your teen become bogged down on the things that don’t matter, like social media or anxieties about the past. Encourage them to focus on what really matters to them and they’ll be able to exist in a productive, joyful state.



Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.