Are you looking for ways to help your tween with anxiety when they tell you they are worried all the time? Do you coddle them or give them tough love? Should you seek professional help for your child or just wait for the moment to pass?
Anxiety and depression among tweens and teens is on the rise in the US. Nearly 20% of teens experience depression before they reach adulthood. But only 30% of kids with a diagnosable condition actually receive treatment.
It is normal for tweens and teens to experience some degree of anxiety. However, it’s when that anxiety becomes so overwhelming that it is interfering with their day to day life that it becomes a problem.
With all the social media platforms available, there are more opportunities for kids to publicly share other kid’s fears and insecurities.
I experienced this with my own daughter when she was fourteen. She was almost hospitalized because of it.
It was certainly a very upsetting and frustrating time for all of us, the whole family was affected. When I say things got bad, I mean they got really bad. I felt like a failure as a mother.
As a result, things were said on all our parts that were hard to come back from.
Consequently, we are still living with the fallout from that time, five years later.
Whoever said tough love is easy, never had to give REAL. TOUGH. LOVE.
My daughter even left home to live with her dad because we weren’t letting her “run the show.”
Anxiety is real, children suffer from it every day. Sometimes it makes them sad. Sometimes it makes them angry and they say things they don’t mean.
As the parent you have to be sympathetic and practice tough love all at the same time.
Therefore it’s up to you to seek help for your child. And that’s just not always an easy role to play sometimes.
Today our daughter is a friendly, outgoing and confident nineteen year old. I promise you, it can get better, and it will if you just keep doing what you’re doing and take it one day at a time.
Anxiety occurs when someone feels there is potential for a threatening situation or if they are unsure about interacting with others.
When feeling anxious, your tween will start withdrawing from social situations as a defense mechanism.
First, your child will probably start complaining of an illness, particularly a queasy stomach or a headache. They also may experience sadness, irritability, difficulty sleeping and concentrating.
They may experience physical symptoms. For example a faster heartbeat, tense muscles and trembling or sweaty hands. It’s due to the rush of adrenaline brought on by what they believe will be a stressful situation.
If your tween is on a sports team, for instance, anxiety may occur when your tween starts thinking about their performance. As a result of that fear, they may think that they will make a mistake, embarrass themselves or even get physically hurt.
Unfortunately, the threat of that happening will cause them to not participate to their full potential or back off from the sport all together.
Meanwhile all they really want is to play their sport well and have fun. However these unsettling feelings kick in and they can’t perform.
These tweens are discovering emotions they didn’t even realize they have. That can be frightening and confusing.
“SMILE, BREATHE, AND GO SLOWLY.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
All these feelings keep them from doing what they need or want to do.
Anxiety makes a person more alert and focused. So rather than just enjoying what they’re doing, they become more aware of their surroundings.
And then they begin to think of all the things that could possibly go wrong.
In addition to that, they are constantly overwhelmed and worried that others won’t understand and they will be rejected or judged.
A child may seek constant reassurance that everything is going to be okay. Those with anxiety tend to double and triple check everything. They just don’t have the proper coping skills yet.
Symptoms of Anxiety to look for:
- Complaining of an illness: Especially complaining of an upset stomach or a headache, which may or may not be true. Stress can cause someone to feel physically ill when it is too much for them to handle.
- Low self-esteem: They say they aren’t good enough to play on a team, they aren’t smart enough to get good grades or they aren’t liked enough to be invited to a party.
- Withdrawal: They spend a lot of time alone and make excuses as to why they can’t go somewhere or talk to someone.
- Mood changes: Moodiness beyond the normal moodiness a tween has when going through puberty. One minute they are happy and talkative and the next they are angry and sad. They are excited to go somewhere but then have a melt down on the way or when they get there.
- Fear of embarrassment: They are constantly worried they will embarrass themselves and people will laugh at them and make fun of them. A child doesn’t yet fully understand the power of learning to laugh at yourself.
The parent’s job
As a parent it hurts to see your child suffering. Even though they are hurting, you need to learn to stay strong and patient.
Your child doesn’t know how to explain to themselves why they feel this way so how can you expect them to explain it to you?
You may feel helpless, but so does your child. By staying positive you are able to remain open to understanding their thoughts and feelings.
A school guidance counselor, a pediatrician or clinical social worker can refer you to someone that can provide your child with proper care and treatment.
These professionals are available to guide them and provide them with ways to manage their emotions so they can feel more relaxed going forward.
A doctor or other health care professional may be able to show your child that everyone has fear and everyone handles their fear differently.
And your child needs to understand that they are not the only person to ever go through this. Many people have learned to successfully manage their anxiety.
Sometimes medication is necessary for treatment.
Needing to take medication to help feel better is never something to be ashamed of.
Your tween should be taught to feel proud of the fact that they are actively working hard to make themselves feel stronger and in control of their life again.
We live in a demanding society where social media has influence over how someone may feel on any particular day.
A kid at school may have posted an awkward picture of your child on Facebook that has embarrassed them. Your tween will react by saying they feel ill and can’t go to school the next day.
As the parent you have the job of deciding what to do next.
You know what’s best for your child but you don’t want to say something that will make them feel worse.
Most importantly, you don’t want to make them stop communicating with you because you aren’t giving them what they want. Which is permission to stay home and avoid the whole situation.
As an adult you know that it’s necessary to pick yourself up and get back in the game.
However your tween feels that one embarrassing moment is only going to turn into another, then another.
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So how do you help your child that is looking to you for strength and comfort?
How do you respond when they ask you why this is happening to them?
Sometimes your child just knowing that they are being treated can actually be the trigger to help them find some relief.
They will no longer need to hide their feelings which will help make them not feel so alone. You need to make sure they know that you are there for them and that you are on their side.
It’s important for your child to know that you aren’t upset with them and that they have done nothing wrong.
For example, maybe you can plan ahead by giving them an out, or an escape plan, if they start to feel upset. Let them know that the important thing is that they try.
Try to give them encouragement before they even start to feel stressed by helping them feel prepared for what they are about to do or where they are about to go.
“Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action. ~Walter Anderson
It’s more the fear leading up to the event rather than the event itself.
Often times once they get somewhere, their anxiety will subside and they will find that they are enjoying themselves and that it wasn’t as bad as they thought it was going to be.
The more times they do this, the more comfortable they will feel the next time and the time after that.
WEIGHTED BLANKET – offering sleep help for adults and kids by giving them the feeling of receiving a hug, perfect for someone who could use an extra hug at the end of the day.
WEIGHTED BLANKET- offering sleep help for adults and kids by giving them the feeling of receiving a hug. Another gift perfect for someone that could use a hug at the end of the day.
At the end of the day don’t all parents just want their children to be happy, healthy and safe?
Well, every child just wants to feel loved and supported.
There are also other suggestions on how to help your tween with anxiety?
Don’t talk negatively about them behind their back, talk to them and be honest with your own feelings towards them and their anxiety.
It’s okay to tell them that you don’t understand all of it either. But be sure to show them you are willing to learn because you love them and want to help them.
This may make them feel you are a safe place to turn to. And that you support them and that what they are going through is real.
Show them that you have respect for them and their fears.
Furthermore, tell them that you believe them when they say they are nervous or not feeling well.
Don’t ever give up on your child.
You both need to accept that your child’s anxiety is real and may never go away.
But over time, with patience, love and treatment, anxiety can be managed and life can be enjoyable again.
Your tween can feel confident and in control of their future. They no longer have to feel alone and left out anymore.
Remember that you should feel proud of your child for facing their fears and proud of yourself for remaining by their side while they do it.
TOGETHER A FAMILY CAN GET THROUGH ANYTHING!
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~PLEASE REMEMBER THAT KINDNESS MATTERS~
Thank you to all our “friends” who helped us SOURCE this post!
SOURCES FOR THIS POST:
- imom.com “5 Signs of Tween Anxiety” http://www.imom.com/5-signs-of-tween-anxiety/#.XMD6UPZFyM8
- Kidshealth.org “Anxiety Disorders” https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/anxiety.html
- WebMD “Anxiety and Teens” https://teens.webmd.com/anxiety-and-teens#1
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