Supporting a Teen with Anxiety

When your teen is anxious, it can be difficult for parents to know what to do. It’s important to be available for your teenager when they are feeling anxious. Here are some ways you can show your support.

Listen first.

When your teen comes to you about their anxiety it’s important to listen first before giving any advice. As parents, we often want to solve the problem for our teen or tell them what they should do next. Allowing your teen to talk about how they are feeling, without interrupting, is an important first step.

Ask your teen if they can identify triggers to their anxiety.

Anxiety may be brought on by something specific. Even if there is an underlying cause, talking about it may be difficult for your teen. Ask open ended questions. Validate their feelings. Avoid minimizing their experience. Common scenarios to explore may include: issues surrounding school or sports performance, friends and relationships, or feelings related to self-image.

Encourage your teen to make their own decisions.

You can continue supporting your teen while simultaneously encouraging them to think about potential next steps. Make it known that you are available any time they need or want to talk.

Feeling anxious is normal and can even be helpful. However, if anxiety is getting in the way of your teen’s activities, relationships or performance let them know there are effective treatment options. Your CCP pediatric provider is a great resource if your teen has questions about treatment options for anxiety.

Reward your teen for taking small steps.

It may seem awkward to reward an older child, but it is a great way to show your support (let’s be honest, everyone likes their efforts to be noticed). When your teen succeeds, try rewarding them with something he or she enjoys like a favorite meal or a shopping trip. Don’t forget to continue recognizing their efforts over time.

Let your teen know you believe in them.

Teens want to be independent, but still need your support. Let them know how much you appreciate that they came to you. Seeking help from parents is not always easy. Encourage him or her to keep trying, no matter how long it takes. Each small step is a meaningful one.

If you have questions about behavioral health, your UPMC Children's Community Pediatrics provider can serve as a trusted resource. He or she also has the ability to refer your teen to a behavioral health specialist if you are interested in moving forward with an evaluation.