There is so much pressure for teenagers these days. Pressure to fit in. Pressure to stand out. Struggles with feeling good enough in all bouts of life. Am I going to get into college? Pressure to do well in school. Uncertainties about their future can bring about a lot of anxiety. And uncertainty of the future worries was of course apparent for teens before coronavirus times. But now, even more! So much more uncertainty….
Unfortunately many times all this worry doesn’t come with teens being patient with themselves, being kind, reassuring themselves (at least not enough of that!). Worry about the future often comes with being overly critical of themselves. Not forgiving. So many “what if’s” that enter the mind without enough resolve around answering the questions. They don’t leave enough room for this friendly thing called- Trial and error. It’s all got to be perfect. Or it has to be according to a specific idea they have in their head. Maybe they don’t even know what it’s supposed to look like but they just see the mistakes in themselves and others along the way.
As a parent of a teen you see the struggle they are going through and you aren’t sure how to help or what to do. You want to help your teen worry less about the future, but how, you ask…? Your teen doesn’t listen to you. Or if they do, they seem to take in what you say for a minute (or a day…) and then they go back to worrying about the future. It’s like it’s so ingrained in them to worry that you don’t feel like what you say makes any traction.
Maybe your teens worry about the future looks like this:
Your teen is working on a project in school. There is plenty of time for her to complete it but she starts to get into a cycle around all the steps that need to be taken. You know that the worry isn’t really about the project. It’s about her stressing the “what if I don’t get into college” or “If I fail here then I will fail in life” type of messages. When she struggles in one area. That’s it everything else is on the rocks.
You end up feeling torn as to how to help your teen worry less about the future because it feels like they already decided to worry. They aren’t allowing room to shift this decision to worry. And they are being so critical of themselves in the process!
How to help your teen worry less about the future- 4 “How’s” below!
Teens worry less about the future HOW TO ONE: Practice answering your own “what if” questions
We all have experience with struggling with the “what if’s” of life. Where we allow our minds to go along the path of anxiety and start getting to some worst case scenarios in our head. When we get stuck on this path we teach our minds that if the “what if” were to happen that we wouldn’t have the internal resources to deal with the scenario. The reality is that we have so many internal resources. If we allow ourselves to utilize we could really deal with all the “what if” scenarios.
When you work on dealing with your own anxiety and work through your own internal resources you have so much more ability to help your teen do the same. This goes with the underlying understanding that if you work on your own anxiety then you can help others work on theirs. This is true for all people in your life. Practicing working through your own “what if’s” in your mind and sharing this with your teen once you do the work, will help you show them that it is possible. Even if they aren’t receptive to it in the moment, you are planting a seed for them.
In teen therapy Simi Valley we work with your teen on being able to challenge their “what if’s” by identifying their internal resources to deal with what life throws at them. We also incorporate a family counseling approach when working with a teen as we know the value of helping you help them!
Teens worry less about the future HOW TO TWO: Validate their worries before you challenge
Oftentimes it’s our instinct to help right away when we hear our children’s struggles. But the reality is that if they are in a place of worry and you come straight with solutions it will likely not be heard. This is because where you are and where they are in terms of the problem are so different.
It is important to validate where they are. Identify the feelings they are experiencing and stick with them in the pain and struggle for a bit. Once they are truly feeling understood and heard there will be much more room to hear what you have to say.
Our psychologists in Simi Valley work with you and your teen on sticking with the feeling and validating one another rather than jumping to reactivity or a solution. We often jump these solutions from a place of anxiety but allowing yourself to slow that process down will be helpful for you and your teen.
Teens worry less about the future HOW TO THREE: Plan family activities
Where there is room to over worry it will happen. What I am trying to say is that if a teen has a lot of time on their own or in their mind they will be more likely to worry. Planning activities and being active together as a family will reduce the time they have to worry. This will also help you get closer as a family.
Your teen may be resistant to family activities but they will get more and more used to the increase of family activities. And this will ultimately become the new normal. Try not to be reactive to their resistance. Just keep it more of a matter of fact. In teen counseling we work with you and your teen on building strong family time together. We know the value that this will have on your connection and ability to reduce anxiety.
Teens worry less about the future HOW TO FOUR: Get them some help to deal with the worries
Teens get stuck in their heads. As the rest of us, we get used to the way we do things. So if it has become routine to worry then we continue to worry as part of our routine. When we get help we are communicating to ourselves “I am going to do something different.” In doing things differently we will be able to make real change in our lives. In teen therapy at Simi Psychological Group, we work with your teen and family on going about things differently. We do this so worry is reduced and the ability to be present and connected is stronger.
Teens go through so much pressure both external and internal. There is so much worry about the future and so many “what if’s” of life. The truth is that there are many things you can do to help your teen and family. Working on your own anxiety and answering “what if’s” for yourself is a strong method to help your teen. You are able to then plant the seeds for change and growth. Making sure to validate their feelings before challenging them. Planning family activities are some other ways to help your teen with their future worries. Getting them the help they need so they can disrupt their anxiety patterns is a strong strategy to support them.
About the author,
I specialize in working with anxiety and in helping adolescents and their families, adults, and couples better their relationships and find direction. Rather than shy away from the tough stuff in life, I prefer to face it head-on, together. I believe that challenges are part of being human and that everyone has the potential to become their own life’s navigator. So they never have to feel out of control or at the mercy of their circumstances. Learn more