We all feel stressed and anxious from time to time — some more than others. Teenagers, especially, experience tremendous stressors that impact their learning, their mental and physical health, and their relationships.
Learning how to understand your own emotional reactions and finding effective ways to manage your stress and anxiety is a crucial life skill.
So what can we do to support kids and help them manage their emotions?
1. Help normalize anxiety:
Share with them the definition of anxiety, and explain just how common it is. We can help them understand that the emotion is a response to threat or danger and recognize how useful it can be when properly managed.
2. Share with our kids about our own experiences of anxiety:
The more open and honest we are about our anxiety, the more they will feel normal for having their feelings. Kids need the opportunity to see how normal it is to have anxiety, especially in the adults involved in their lives.
3. Explain to them the different forms it might take:
We can share with them what forms anxiety might come in and how it might take shape in their life. Ask them to identify how they experience anxiety, and do your best to help them interpret their feelings through that lens and manage their emotions.
4. Teach them coping strategies that work for us and for others:
When they share with us times when they’ve used one of their coping strategies, or if we see them using them, we can be sure to praise them and affirm what they’re doing. That can help reinforce the behavior to become a habit which will in turn serve as an asset to them in life.
Here’s an engaging activity to help kids understand what causes them stress and create coping strategies.
The most important thing to teach our kids about anxiety might be this: anxiety is uncomfortable.
To the extent that our kids see substance use as a relief for their uncomfortable feelings, they will be more prone to make unhealthy choices. If they see drinking, vaping, or drugs as solutions to their problems, they will head down an uncertain path. Those consequences are severe.
That’s why it’s so important to teach our kids to understand and manage their anxiety in healthy and productive ways. So that they have the capacity to handle the unavoidable uncertainties in life and grow stronger through difficult circumstances.