Teenage scheduling their school work to help alleviate stress

High school can be stressful for many students because the increasing competition for college admissions has intensified, adding pressure to excel academically while balancing friendships and extracurricular activities. This added pressure, combined with the looming college application process, may lead to increased anxiety among teens. It can be difficult for parents to know how to support a child struggling with anxiety. Here are some strategies for assisting your child in dealing with anxiety.

Listen without judgment or advice

It is important to listen to your child without passing judgment or offering advice. Give your child space to talk and actively listen to their concerns. Avoid asking closed-ended questions like "Did you finish your homework?". Instead, probe with open-ended questions like "How was your day at school today?" or "What are you feeling right now?" It's also important not to dismiss their worries, even if they seem trivial to you. Understanding their perspective will help them trust you and feel heard.

Encourage healthy habits

Another way to support your child is by promoting healthy habits, like getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can trigger areas of the brain associated with anxiety, and eating a diet high in sugar and caffeine can leave the body feeling depleted. Set phone and television limits in the evening to encourage healthy sleep habits. Ensure your child eats a balanced diet with enough protein, vitamins, and proper hydration.

Encourage physical activity

Encourage your child to participate in regular physical activities such as sports, exercise, or yoga. Physical activity can help release endorphins, improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety. If your child is not currently on a sports team or does not participate in a physical activity that they enjoy, assist them in trying different activities to find one that's a good fit. Be willing to try new activities and see what works best for them.

Physical activity can help release endorphins, improve mood
                        and reduce stress and anxiety

Address specific anxiety triggers

Every person is different and has unique things that trigger their anxiety. Help your child identify specific triggers, such as test-taking or public speaking, and develop coping strategies. Once they understand what triggers their anxiety, they can develop a plan to manage it.

Time management

Anxiety is frequently motivated by a fear of failure; students may wonder, "How will I get everything done?" Helping teens manage their time can alleviate this concern. Encourage them to find out what assignments they have coming up in the next month and assist them in scheduling time to prepare for each—this will help them avoid the added stress of working or studying at the last minute.

Provide them with a scheduler or planner to help them manage their time. If they prefer to schedule on their phone or computer, that is fine; encourage them to use whatever works best for them. Remind them to set aside time for homework, studying, extracurricular activities, and rest. Encourage your child to prioritize their tasks and start with the most important. Remind them that larger projects can be divided into smaller, more manageable tasks. This will help them see that they are capable of finishing the task and will prevent procrastination.

Set limits on phone and internet use during homework or study time to help your child avoid distractions while studying. Encourage your child to study in a quiet and comfortable environment, away from distractions such as loud music or television.

Mindfulness and meditation exercises

Mindfulness and meditation exercises can be very beneficial for anxiety management and promote healthy habits. Breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and journaling are types of mindfulness exercises.

One such technique is progressive muscle relaxation. This exercise consists of tensing and releasing specific muscle groups, such as scrunching up the shoulders, tensing the neck and shoulders, and then releasing all tension. This can aid in the release of physical tension and the reduction of anxiety.

Incorporating these exercises into your child's daily routine, even for as little as five minutes, can improve their ability to manage and reduce anxiety. These exercises not only aid in releasing physical tension but also in creating mental distance from troubling thoughts.

Keep calm at home

Encourage your child to set aside time each day to practice these strategies, even if it's as little as five minutes. You can join them and practice together; it will be a great bonding experience for both of you. However, if the child prefers to do the exercises alone, it is important to respect their decision and provide them with the space and privacy to practice. Make it a time of relaxation and connection for them rather than feel like another homework assignment. It's OK if your child prefers to use an app to help them with the exercises. Numerous apps are available to help guide those new to mindfulness and meditation practices.

Involve school staff

It can be useful to involve school staff in your child's struggles with anxiety. School counselors and teachers can be valuable resources for your child and can offer academic help and additional support. They may also have insights into your child's behavior in school that can give you a more complete picture of the issue.

Reach out for help

While you can provide support and guidance, sometimes it is necessary to seek outside help from a professional therapist. A therapist is trained to work with individuals struggling with anxiety and can provide specialized support and treatment that may not be possible for a parent alone. If your child's anxiety is causing significant disruptions to their daily life, it is important to consider seeking professional help. This may include therapy, counseling, or medication under the guidance of a mental health professional. It's important to remember that seeking outside help is not a sign of weakness but rather a step towards helping your child manage their anxiety and improve their overall well-being.