Help Your Pre-Teen and Teenager Through Their Anxiety

Anxiety is very common among pre-teens and teenagers. The adolescent years come with emotional, social, and physical change, and with these changes come an increased desire to seek new experiences and the development of independence. During these changes of exponential physical and mental growth, children will naturally experience higher levels of anxiety. 

We’ve listed a few tips on how to help a child who is feeling anxious. 

Firstly, what is anxiety? 

Anxiety can be defined as a feeling of worry, fear, and apprehension about everyday situations. Some of the physical reactions can be the feeling of ‘butterflies in the stomach’, sweating, tension, shaking, and feeling nauseous. It’s a very common feeling that comes as a natural part of life. 

Animated image of student with anxiety while doing homework.

Why might a teenager feel anxious? 

There are a lot of reasons why a pre-teen or teenager might feel anxiety. Some examples could be from transitioning between new schools, moving to a new neighborhood, fitting in with friends, their self-image, how they want to be viewed by others, going to school events, speaking in public, or performing at a play. There’s no shortage on the list of things that cause anxiety in children as it comes with the experience of growing older and maturing. 

Anxiety doesn’t have to always be a bad thing as well. Feeling anxious can help keep children from doing dangerous activities, allowing them to think twice about doing anything that might get them in trouble, or hurt themselves. It can also be a good motivator to prepare themselves for exams, sports games, and speeches.

How to help! 

Here are a few tips on how you can help your child who’s feeling anxious. 

Talk about their anxieties with them 

Allowing your child to simply verbalize their emotions and why they feel a certain way about a situation can reduce the amount of their anxiety. Talking, listening, and understanding what they’re going through will help your child greatly in managing anxieties and to potentially find a solution to their problems. 

Acknowledge your child’s anxiety or feelings 

It’s very important to acknowledge and communicate to your child that the anxiety they feel is okay, even if they’re worried about a situation that is not likely to happen. Be a point of affirmation, and tell them you’re confident that they can handle the situation. It is better to voice your confidence than telling them not to worry. Your child will feel your compassion which will help with their self-compassion during challenging times that come later as well.

Encourage their bravery 

Help your child set small goals for something that they feel anxious about. Encourage them gently to help them achieve these goals but avoid pushing your child too hard into situations that they already feel anxious about. For example, if your child has to do an in-class presentation, allow them to practice in front of the family. Appraise their efforts and tell them that they did or are doing great. Not only will the small goal of presenting in front of the family help with their presentation but the knowledge of completing it in front of people with praise will improve their confidence and reduce their anxiety. 

What else? 

Pre-teens and teenagers’ anxiety can be greatly reduced by simply providing them with a safe and secure environment as well. Spending time as a family during dinners and other activities, having family rituals, and allowing them to spend time with friends who they trust and feel comfortable around are few of the many examples. 

Furthermore, encouraging healthy activities can help reduce stress as well. If your child is feeling anxious and spending all their time at home, suggest that they go on a walk or participate in some physical activity they enjoy. Breathing, muscle relaxation, and mindfulness exercises can help as well. 

With all of these tips, we hope your child’s anxiety can be reduced! 

In severe cases where professional help for anxiety is needed, you may seek help from a school counselor, a psychologist trained to treat adolescent children, your local community health center, mental health services, or your general practitioner.