The Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Your Child to Cope with Teen Anxiety – Part One

No matter your age, we all have to bear with stress and anxiety from time to time. However, we are not born with the healthy tools and coping mechanisms to deal with life’s challenges. Children need to learn techniques to manage the stress of their academic, social, and family responsibilities, especially as they get older. This is particularly true for teens.


For this reason, it’s important for parents to teach their children healthy coping methods. A child who learns how to manage life in a healthy way can gain strength and confidence. Each time a child or teen can manage a challenging situation, it adds to his or her level of self-esteem and resilience. It strengthens his or her level of fearlessness in life.


The ability to cope includes having a set of emotional and practical skills that can be used in the face of adversity. In fact, when children and teens learn how to manage their life, they keep their stress from turning into anxiety. In fact, the key difference between stress and anxiety is a sense of helplessness. When there is fear, often helplessness follows. However, when there is stress, a teen is more likely to dive into the problem causing the stress and deal with it. Unlike with anxiety, a teen is more likely to feel the ability to master the problem causing the stress.


Typically, the stress that a teen might feel day to day from deadlines and demands can be associated with frustration, nervousness, pressure, or the inability to control certain aspects of life. On the other hand, teen anxiety often comes from fear, unease, and worry.  Anxiety can be associated to certain phobias, such as a social fear or fear of the dark or a fear of small places. It can be an experience of terror and trepidation of certain places and things. However, stress is an experience that is more common and manageable.


Parents, you can teach your teens how to manage their stress so that it doesn’t turn into teen anxiety and to prevent feelings of helplessness in your child. In fact, every challenge, disappointment, and stressful event is an opportunity to teach teens that they are strong and that they can handle the pressures they are feeling. This isn’t to force them into anything. Rather, it’s a way to encourage a teen to be resilient, if you feel that they’re up for the challenge.


Parents, you can teach your teen the skills they need to solve problems, cope with their emotions, and handle stress. A teen might feel disappointment when they aren’t asked to the prom, or they might feel grief if a close friend passes away. They might get angry if their sports team loses, and so on.


This article and the second one in this two part series will provide suggestions for teaching your teen how to cope with their stress and/or anxiety:


  • Don’t ignore a problem. Parents can be a great model for not avoiding problems. Instead of putting their head down, a teen can learn from their parents to face their problems head on. It’s more common that teens avoid what is challenging and what they don’t like. Teens are often driven by their emotions; the part of the brain responsible for discernment, reason, and making mature decisions is still growing in teens. For this reason, teaching them to tackle problems as they arise can facilitate their own maturity and growth. No matter the size of the problem, big or small, encourage your teens to face them, even if they need to ask for help. At the same time, when children learn how to manage small problems, they build the strength to handle the larger problems in life.


Stay tuned for the second part of this article which will provide the remaining three suggestions on teaching children and teens how to cope with teen anxiety. When they learn how to face the adversities of life, their fearlessness grows, and they’ll be able to achieve anything!