7 Things You Need to Know About Your Teen’s Hidden Anxiety

7 Things You Need to Know About Your Teen’s Hidden Anxiety

From college entrance exams and cheerleading tryouts to choosing whether to drink or have sex, your teen faces an onslaught of stress-inducing challenges. In addition, today’s adolescents have to deal with new pressures: Your daughter may be the target of cyberbullying. Your son may fear getting shot in the classroom.

And all that stress is taking a toll.

Data from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that 30 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys—totaling 6.3 million teens—have experienced an anxiety disorder. A recent article in The New York Times Magazine notes that 62 percent of undergraduates reported “overwhelming” anxiety in 2016.

Here are 7 things you need to know.

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  • 1. Combat your own anxiety and know what to do.

    1. Combat your own anxiety and know what to do.

    In a cruel twist, trying to help or feeling responsible for an anxious teen can increase a parent’s own anxiety levels. The result is a downward spiral. “Not only do we feel anxious, but we also feel guilty about our anxiety,” writes pastor and New York Times best-selling author Max Lucado in his most recent book,Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World.

    Lucado not only outlines the causes of stress, he offers solid, biblical counsel on overcoming it—for teens and parents alike.

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  • 2. Realize that Christians aren’t immune to worry.

    2. Realize that Christians aren’t immune to worry.

    One of the first things you can do as a parent is to understand that Christians are not exempt from worry. “We have been taught that the Christian life is a life of peace,” says Lucado. “When we don’t have peace, we assume the problem lies within us….It’s enough to cause a person to get anxious.”

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  • 3. Anxiety is not a sin; it is an emotion.

    3. Anxiety is not a sin; it is an emotion.

    As long as it doesn’t lead to sinful behavior, you can stop worrying about worrying. You can also stop feeling guilty about seeking medical attention for your teen. “For some of you, God’s healing will include the help of therapy and/or medication,” says Lucado. “If that is the case, do not think for a minute that you are a second-class citizen of heaven.”

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  • 4. Counseling and treatment are key.

    4. Counseling and treatment are key.

    In concert with proper medical treatment and qualified counseling, helping your teen to control his or her thoughts is crucial to overcoming anxiety. Lucado compares a person’s mind to an air traffic control center: "We can't control what thoughts are up in the sky, but we can control which ones we allow to land and which ones we urge to depart.

    “You pick what you ponder,” he adds. “You practice thought management. If you want to guarantee tomorrow’s misery, then wallow in a mental mud pit of self-pity or, guilt, or anxiety today.”

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  • 5. You need to point back to God’s goodness.

    5. You need to point back to God’s goodness.

    You’ll need to remind your teen that we serve a good God when anxiety emerges. “The Bible's approach to helping us deal with anxieties always goes back to the existence of a good God,” says Lucado. “We trust that there's a good God reigning over the world. As people of faith, our response when anxious thoughts come is to filter those through the presence of a good God.”

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  • 6. Try “CALM”.

    6. Try “CALM”.

    In fact, focusing on and celebrating God’ goodness is a foundational part of Lucado’s prescription for anxiety called CALM. The concept is based on the Apostle Paul’s message found in Philippians 4, commanding followers to “Be anxious for nothing.”

    ▪       The C in CALM stands for “celebrate.”  Find ways to help your teen to rejoice in the Lord. Point out scriptural examples of God’s mercy and sovereignty.

    ▪       “A” reminds us to Ask for the Lord’s help. Join with your teen in making his or her requests known to God.

    ▪       “L” stands for Leaving your concerns with Him. Teach your teen how to let God be God! Together, dig up all the things He promises to do in His Word. Then let go and trust.

    ▪       “M,” as you might have guessed, stands for Meditation. Work with your child on thinking about things that are worthy of praise.

    You’ll find a full explanation of each step in Anxious for Nothing along with questions for reflection and prayers you and your family can follow.

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  • 7. Remember, God wants to help.

    7. Remember, God wants to help.

    “It is not God’s will that you lead a life of perpetual anxiety,” says Lucado. “It is not His will that you face every day with dread and trepidation.”

    Even in the craziness of today’s society, teens can live without “breath-stealing angst and mind-splitting worry,” Lucado adds.

    And parents: God cares for your child as much or more than you do. Use the CALM principles to quell the anxiety you feel for your teen. Together, your family can start a new chapter.

    Can you imagine a life in which you are anxious for nothing? God can!

    Janet Chismar is a freelance writer living in Tennessee. 

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