Things You Should Never Say to a Teenager With Anxiety
Watching your teenager suffer with anxiety can be heartbreaking because often, you cannot do anything to make it better for them. The challenges for teens may stem from not having effective coping mechanisms to limited treatment options, including pills for stress and anxiety over the counter. When anxiety takes over your teen, you may be tempted to reassure them and, in the process, say something that can inadvertently make the situation more difficult. Here is a list of statements to avoid when helping teenagers manage their anxiety.
This statement may have worked occasionally when your child was young and the problems behind the worries were concrete or had an easy solution. With teens, however, you cannot guarantee any outcome, especially when the concern is outside anyone’s control. A better approach is to let them know their feelings are acceptable and not to feel guilty about unease, especially when faced with lots of unknowns.
Everything is going to be okay.
You are overreacting.
Frequently, anxiety is not a rational process, and teenagers do not relish the level of emotion that goes along with it. Instead of denying their feelings, validate them. By allowing teens to express themselves and feel heard, you are acknowledging that you may not always understand, but you do support them.
Has anyone ever calmed down on command? If anything, telling a teen to calm makes the anxiety worse. Teenagers are cognizant of the fact that they cannot remain calm, no matter how much they wish they could. Short of prescription or non prescription anxiety medication, few options can reduce anxiety once it ramps up or turns to a panic attack.
Get over it.
This statement combines denial and judgment into one dismissive and unsupportive way to approach a teen’s anxiety. It may be worse than some of the other inappropriate responses because it packs a lot of uncaring tone into three hurtful words. No teenager wants to have anxiety, but all teenagers want to feel loved and supported when they are struggling.
Every person should be comfortable when expressing emotions, and if you or someone else share your own feelings, you may not be giving the support and attention your teen needs. Just as misery loves company, so too does anxiety, which can exacerbate as anxious people feed off each other’s energy. In an anxious moment, your role is compassion, not introspection.
A kind word, a hand to hold, and a shoulder to cry on can go a long way to helping your teenager survive an anxiety attack. In calmer moments, you, your teen, or a mental health professional can work through coping strategies to better handle anxiety the next time it strikes. Encourage natural remedies for teenage anxiety such as breathing techniques, healthy eating, regular exercise, supplements, and other ways to keep the anxiety in check. After all, anxiety is not going to just go away on its own, so helping teenagers learn how to live with it, how to lessen symptoms independently, and when to ask for help can better prepare them for challenges they may face in the future as adults.