By Dr. Joseph Kahn, MercyKids president
Anxiety. We tend to hear this description more and more often when it comes to kids and teens. While there are some ideas as to the cause, the main issue for those of you with preteens is how to handle it during teen years, a time of tremendous change.
While I wish I had better news for you, often those who struggled with anxiety during childhood may see it get worse during adolescence. Challenges of social life and peer acceptance, of increased difficulty and expectations of academic performance, of getting into the “right” college, of increased demands on the athletic field cause worry and anxiety. Teens want to achieve but are afraid of failure. They need to belong but fear rejection. They want certainty about their value, their future, their place with their peers. Unfortunately, life isn’t certain, especially during a time of such extreme change. What’s even more frustrating is that, while navigating these challenges, teens are striving for independence and often resist your offers of help.
So how can you help your teen cope and survive these challenges? Emphasize to them that life is not meant to be, and never will be, perfect. Give them the opportunity to fail and rebound. Failures will occur, cannot be avoided and must be turned into learning moments. Teach that every inevitable setback is not a catastrophe. If one thing goes wrong, everything is not doomed to go wrong and life still goes on. Teens must understand that there is more than one road to success and they must find the one that is right for them.
Parenting is modelling. Pay attention to your own response to stress and life’s challenges and try to present your teen with good examples of techniques to cope. Assure your teen that they are supposed to be anxious but learning to manage it is necessary and possible.