All parents want to raise strong, confident, happy daughters, but there’s evidence showing that female adolescents are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. A recent article in the Deseret News suggests that young women are having a rough time; researchers are seeing anxiety, self-harm, and even suicide in girls as young as 10. In recent years, I have witnessed an increase in the number of referrals of young people (girls and boys) to my therapy practice who are experiencing these same sorts of issues. Clearly, we have a real cultural problem to address, and there’s certainly reason to be concerned.
So what is driving this epidemic of stressed out kids and teens? There’s no one root cause; it’s a multi-faceted problem, but some of the reasons include sleep deprivation, nutritional concerns, family problems, perfectionism, overuse of social media, a diminishment of face-t0-face interactions, too much of a focus on external appearances, and facing the troubled world we live in. There’s a lot for young people to handle, and it’s no wonder they’re struggling! And while there’s no cure to make anxiety and worry disappear, there are some steps parents and grandparents can take to help alleviate some of the stress young people are facing.
Listen To Your Child
If you sense that your daughter or son is having a hard time emotionally, I’d encourage you to close your mouth, open your ears, and be a better listener. Sometimes kids just need to talk things out and articulate their feelings. It’s not always easy to hear our kids out without automatically jumping to a solution or a way to try to a fix a problem, but even just being a sounding board can be extremely helpful. We regulate each other physiologically, and being with others who care about us can help calm us down. Ask some prompting questions if needed, but really just lending a non-judgmental listening ear can be incredibly soothing for a child in pain.
While it’s crucial to listen to what’s going on with your son or daughter, there is a place for you to articulate to your child that it’s okay that he/she is experiencing worry, stress, and anxiety. Sometimes just identifying difficult feelings makes them more manageable. Try saying something like, “everyone gets worried and scared at different times in their lives, and there are things we can do to help ourselves feel better.” Help young people understand that their painful emotions are normal and that they don’t need to be ashamed of them.
Monitor Social Media
Parents need to be aware of how social media may be playing a part in their children’s worry. The amount of time a young person spends on the internet everyday, how old he/she, and what sites are being frequented are all important to know. Pornography and internet bullying are real dangers, but besides these concerns, too much screen time can really cut into sleep! In my house, we have a rule that kids aren’t allowed to have technology in their bedrooms. Consider what guidelines you can implement to help make sure social media usage isn’t getting out of hand and contributing to your son or daughter’s stress levels.
Everyone needs to feel like they belong in a certain group or community, and this is particularly true for teens. Whether it’s a sports club, a church group, or some other gathering, we all have an innate need to be part of something bigger than just ourselves. This social support can provide a buffer for anxieties and worries and can give a sense of meaning to our lives. Encourage your child to seek out the relationships that they can experience through belonging to a community, and also talk to them about the importance of reaching out to others so that they can be included as well.
Seek Out Professional Help
Sometimes we can get past difficult emotions through our own coping skills, but other times we need some help. If your son or daughter’s worry or stress is interfering with their day to day functioning, contact a therapist and schedule an evaluation. Your child may have full blown anxiety or other mental disorders, or he/she may benefit from learning some coping skills. Either way, a trained professional can help sooth some of the worry that is plaguing so many adolescents these days.
Our clinicians at Wasatch Family Therapy can be of help. Contact one today if your teen or pre-teen’s anxiety is getting too difficult to handle alone.