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Managing Teenage Anxiety

Does your child have teenage anxiety?  If so, they are not alone.  Even before COVID 19 happened to us, lots of kids had anxiety.  

How do you know if your child has anxiety?  There are a few signs that are common to teenage anxiety that I have seen in my counseling practice.  This can vary by age.  Older teens can show anxiety,  or hide it better, than younger teens and children.  Some of the signs I see are avoiding speaking up in groups,  avoiding social situations such as sleep overs, avoiding interacting with authority figures such as coaches, teachers, or aunts and uncles they are less familiar with.  Body language can also be a clue.  Anxious teenagers tend to hold themselves in such a way as to make themselves smaller.  They literally make themselves shorter by scrunching down their posture and tend to cover themselves almost as in a defensive posture. Think arms crossed over their chests and avoiding eye contact.  They don’t stand in ways that look assertive.  This may mean they don’t stand or walk with a confident air.

Anxious Behaviors

Anxious teens often decline invitations to do things with new groups of kids or go to places they are unfamiliar with.  They may say they are not interested in going to summer camps, joining activity based school clubs, or field trips because they get uncomfortable in situations where they don’t know what to expect or who they might have to interact with.  Anxious teens often don’t like to be called on in school or singled out even in good ways.  

Anxiety can be overcome with counseling.  The general strategy is to help the teen visualize what they will be doing differently when they are no longer anxious.  A counselor for an anxious teenager will help them develop a very detailed picture of themselves when they are more confident so they can see it themselves clearly in various real scenarios.

Next Steps

The next step is to help them identify very small, but do-able, things they can start doing differently.  This could be, for example, choosing to walk more confidently into the school building one day, even if they don’t do anything else differently the rest of the day.  Then the counselor would build on this one thing and add another positive behavior to it.  Pretty soon, the anxious teenager is noticing other times when they were more confident. They start seeing themselves gaining confidence and trying new things.  

If your have a child with teenage anxiety, counseling is a good idea.  It can help them overcome it more quickly and feel confident to try new things and gain new friends and experiences.  

Gary Watson is a Solution Focused Therapist in Grand Rapids Michigan.  He provides counseling for couples, counseling for teenagers, and adults.  He provides counseling for anxiety, depression, stress, college and work stress, and relationship problems.  For more information, please visit the website at