Raising a teenager isn’t easy. A certain amount of anxiety is normal in certain situations. However, when the anxiety begins to interfere with whether a teen is able to function normally and enjoy life, for the most part, it becomes a concern.
Teens can easily become overwhelmed with academic and social pressures. As children, they don’t yet fully understand how to navigate these feelings of anxiety. Other things can trigger teen anxiety as well, and as a parent, you may bear some of the responsibility.
Here are seven things you might be doing that can contribute to teen anxiety:
1. You’ve Led Your Child to Believe That Happiness is the Only Normal State
No parent likes to see their child unhappy. However, experiencing and learning to deal with a wide range of emotions, including unhappiness, is normal.
If you always try to cheer up your child instead of letting him experience feelings of sadness, frustration, guilt, anger or disappointment, you’re doing your child a huge disservice. Your child will grow up thinking that feeling anything other than happiness is wrong, which can trigger anxiety.
2. You’ve Allowed Screen Time to Be a Crutch
The digital content that teens have access to is like a crutch. It serves as an escape that they can turn to whenever they don’t want to deal with situations or emotions that make them feel uncomfortable. But what will happen when they do have to deal with uncomfortable situations or feelings? They won’t know-how, which can cause anxiety to rear its head.
3. You Go Overboard to Help Your Child Succeed
Although there’s nothing wrong with some well-placed encouragement or a pep talk, if you’re a parent who will stop at nothing to see your child succeed, you should probably reevaluate your actions. Instead, you need to let your child navigate challenges largely on her own. Then, she will learn to either give it her all or experience the consequences instead of viewing you as her safety net.
If your child does try her best but still doesn’t succeed, let her know that it’s okay to fail. The important thing is to learn from the failure and try again. Otherwise, when you’re not around, and your child is faced by a challenge, he will likely become anxious.
4. You Label Your Child
Labeling your child, even if those labels are meant to be flattering, is a recipe for disaster. For example, if your child has always excelled at math in the lower elementary grades but starts to struggle in middle school, it’s unfair to label him. Don’t say, “You’re the best at math; start showing it.” This can cause anxiety.
Instead say, “It seems like you’re struggling in math right now, what can I do to help?” Then, your child will feel like he has a support system for getting back on the right track instead of feeling like he has to be the best at math.
5. You Don’t Understand Physical Confidence
You may not realize it, but multiple studies have shown that physical appearance is closely linked with a person’s confidence. Teens who aren’t happy with their appearance may resort to more drastic attempts to change the way they look. For example, according to NYCCD, cosmetic dentistry in NYC, “your smile can have a dramatic impact in the way you see yourself and the way you believe other people perceive you.”
If you notice your teen is too shy to smile, consider a treatment service like Invisalign. On the other hand, if you notice they aren’t eating much, talk to them about signing up for a gym or physically-minded classes like a dance.
6. You Fail to Teach Your Child How to Cope
As a parent of a child who has school, music lessons, sports and more, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and not realize that your child is missing out on learning important coping skills. If you always swoop in and take care of whatever problems happen to arise, you’re not allowing your child to learn how to effectively cope.
Consider what will happen when your child is away at summer camp or goes to college. If he has never had to work through a challenge or a hassle, he may not be very successful on his own, which can cause anxiety issues.
7. You Shield Your Child From His Fears
If you never nudge or encourage your child to do things that terrify them, then they likely never will. This doesn’t mean that you should push your child to his limits or make him feel forced to do things that he absolutely is fearful of. It just means you should take it step-by-step instead of avoiding it.
Making a habit of avoiding fearful situations doesn’t mean that your child will never have to deal with them. It just means that when he finally has to face his fears, he will experience anxiety.
8. You Don’t Allow Your Child to Have Unstructured Time
If your child only interacts with others during organized activities, it’s important to allow her some unstructured time with others. Unstructured social time allows kids to test the waters in how they interact with others on their own. And if your child is alone for unstructured time, that can allow him to let his creativity to take hold and be alone with his thoughts.
Both situations can help him avoid the anxiety that could occur if this type of unstructured time never or rarely occurs.