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Our world has become shallow and there is more pressure than even on looks and public perception. Anxiety is crippling our children and paralyzing them with fear. According to an article published in New York Times, The American College Health Association found a rise in anxiety- from 50% in 2011 to 62% in 2016 in its annual survey of students.
As a parent, it becomes a matter of great concern—why is this happening and how can we help prevent our kids from falling into this trap?
The first step requires us to understand some of the root causes of anxiety amongst teens. Here are a few of them
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#1 Electronic devices
It comes as no surprise—these are the first culprits that foster anxiety amongst teens.
Well, on one hand, without a doubt it is necessary to give our children a platform to positively channel their emotions, allowing them to vent their discomfort. However, for many, instead of acknowledging their emotions and channeling it out through a desirable activity, they simply escape into the digital universe. With the help of the Internet and particularly social media, in many cases, they avoid dealing with those emotions.
Rather, they escape into a “world” and create expectations on a virtual platform. This actually prevents them from finding the opportunity that would have otherwise helped them become stronger psychologically. Technology can be good or bad—it often creates more of an escape and avoidance where they can find another way of “fitting in”.
#2 Not acknowledging sadness
Sadness, anger or any other emotions that we may face are totally normal and they each have their own time and place. Happiness tends to be so overrated that sometimes we do not allow our children to experience other emotions as well.
In stifling other emotions and talking as though happiness is the best emotion, teens may see other emotions as taboo. They may end up feeling as if they are “broken” or they may experience shame about other emotions. Children may not understand how they could feel anything else.
#3 False Praise
As parents it’s true: we love to encourage our children; however, exaggerating accomplishments isn’t actually beneficial for their mental health and development.
An example would be the statement “You are the most intelligent child in your class”. This can actually make your child end up thinking “If I do not get the highest grade, I will be a disappointment to my parents and people will no longer believe I am intelligent”.
So please, don’t give your children false praise. You are setting expectations that may be difficult for our children to obtain and this, in turn, can create a gripping fear of not being good enough.
#4 The competition
To win “the race”, we sometimes do everything in our power to build up the “best” child ever. From the point of getting them a private tutor to making them sign-up for the football team. Sometimes parents think like who cares if they like football or not as long as it helps to get into Ivy League. If you think that way, stop yourself and think!! YOU should care. Take interest in your children’s interests and hobbies—don’t force ideas and competitive pressures on your kids.
#5 Neglecting life management skills
Sometimes—although we are full of good intentions—by focusing on some aspects of life like academics and sports, we forget to focus on stress and time management. Those areas are just as important, if not more—think: transferable skills!!—so, how will they learn to manage that extra workload when it comes?
#6 Jumping in to “fix” their problems
In an attempt to protect our children from hassles, confusion, physical and emotional scars we sometimes “spoon feed” them. It’s normal to want to help our kids but if we are frequently overstepping, then when it comes time for them to step out into the real world they may actually be ill-equipped to face life’s challenges. It’s important to let them develop these skills as they grow up.
#7 Nothing wrong with baby steps
Sometimes, children are pushed too hard and at other times, they are overly protected from their fears. Ideally, we want to help our children seek balance. It’s recommended to help children by gradually exposing them to what they fear, helping them brave and conquer it step-by-step. It gives a great sense of accomplishment and will help build them up.
#8 We feel scared or guilty for our children
Sometimes we overly protect our child because we have emotions of guilt and fear we may actually be experiencing ourselves, as we parent. It’s important not to project our feelings and insecurities onto our kids—and don’t get me wrong, that can be hard. But rather, try to help them learn how to process uncomfortable emotions instead of avoiding them.
#9 Not enough play
Children need to play! It’s so important—so let them play!
While sports and unstructured play teaches children social skills, playing alone teaches them to be comfortable in their own skin. It helps them be comfortable on their own and teaches them how to entertain themselves.
#10 Responsibility on the family ranks.
If children haven’t been given responsibility and age-appropriate tasks growing up, if they are suddenly asked to take charge it can cause serious anxiety.
Lynn Lyons, a psychotherapist and author humorously referred to anxiety as a cult leader. Why? Because like every cult leader, it creeps into the mind and brainwashes a person, generating false beliefs, all of it negative.
“Anxiety is all about the avoidance of uncertainty and discomfort,” Lyons explained. “When we play along, we don’t help kids learn to cope or problem-solve in the face of unexpected events.”
So, learn to let your kids be uncomfortable sometimes.
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