Rising teen anxiety! 4 strategies to help your kid today
Don't be fooled. Teens and kids who seem to have it all are often lacking in psychological resources to support them in managing stress and being happy in this world. Suniya Luthar, Ph.D. of Columbia University's Teachers College studied rates of anxiety and depression among teens and found that adolescents who grew up in a home whose income was $120,000 or higher experienced higher rates of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse than any other income bracket in America. Why are our kids so stressed? Is it because they reach for a material world akin to the celebrity life like we see in the reality shows? Is it because parents believe that if the child does not get into the right daycare, they won't get into the right preschool and if not that they won't succeed? Clinical Psychologist Madeline Levine says "Parents are worried that if their children don't get into Harvard, they're going to be standing with a tin cup on the corner somewhere."
While this may seem like a preposterous notion to many, the fear of this is very real in the family which causes enormous stress on the kids. In my own practice I've seen stress and anxiety on the rise in adolescents. I have also heard tutors telling me kids seem much more stressed now than they've seen in the past. When parents are stressed, the kids feel that and take it in. They start to develop unhealthy styles of thinking like perfectionism and fears of failure. This stress turns into anxiety and begins to arrest them when they're taking tests and studying. While a little stress helps out with motivation, this mounting stress is an obstacle to the child's success and well-being.
Our media may also be to blame. When kids and adults get used to watching reality TV shows where people are showered in riches and fame, they often can't help but compare themselves to that and inevitably feel disappointed and like a failure because they don't have that material "success". Kids end up valuing the material world and feeling insecure with a false sense of what life should be like.
What can parents and adolescents do?
- First, parents need to learn how to manage their own stress so they can model this for their adolescents and children. If you are a highly stressed or anxious parent I recommend looking into stress reduction practices. I often write about mindfulness as a wonderful practice to support people with every day stress. Feel free to search in my archives for ideas that can help or for a CD program click here.
- Second, while the TV and internet can be great babysitters, try turning off the television at least once a week and limit your kid's interaction on the internet. Practice mindful listening with them. There is a common co, not just hearing what they are saying, but listening, click here to read more about how to do this.
- Third, promote altruistic acts in your children and have them get the feel for what it is like to give back to society. This helps them realize that it is not all about them, which inevitably relieves pressure and gives them invaluable tools that will support their well-being.
- Fourth, try to stop obsessing over your kid's grades and performance and really try and help them have an interest in learning for its own sake. This will not only help your own stress, but help them retain information better, get in the flow of learning, and do it all with less pressure.
As always, please share your thoughts or questions below. This is such an important topic as our kids and adolescents are the future of this world. Your questions and comments support a living wisdom that can benefit us all.
THANK YOU - Teens Anxiety - Dec 5th 2009
THANK YOU for writing on what other can do to help- there is really not enough information out there on this
This, the ADAA, AnxietyInTeens, and NIMH have all ben helpful resources, too. Here is a link:
exchange resources - Tamar Chansky - Jan 17th 2009
Thank you for this great article. It is so important for parents to recognize that their extreme thinking creates stress and reinforces negative/unrealistic thinking in their kids.
This is the subject of my new book, Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking: Powerful Practical Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Resilience, Flexibility and Happiness.
I am interested in the program you created. If you would be interested in exchanging resources, please let me know.