These are in random order:
1. The news: Your teenagers are susceptible to the scare tactics used by the media just as much as everyone else. What I mean by scare tactics is that bad news and anxiety cause people to continue watching the news. In my office I have worked with many a terrified teenager after they read about a school shooting thousands of miles away, or the war on terror, etc.
2. Problems with friends: Friends are your teenager’s world. As a parent you likely have enough perspective to realize things will iron out. However, for your adolescent, when things are off balance with friends their whole world seems upside down.
3. Pressure to get good grades: This is a constant source of anxiety for just about every teenager I see in my office. Most teenagers feel they need to do better than they are doing, even when they have a 3.5 or 4.0 GPA. Help your teen set reasonable goals and then be satisfied when these are reached. Help them remember there’s only one valedictorian each year.
4. Parents expressing disappointment: Your teenager might act as though he or she doesn’t care that you are disappointed in something they did. This couldn’t be father from the truth. Every teenager I’ve ever worked with wants their parents to approve of him or her. However, if they don’t know how to get this approval, or if they perceive you as being regularly critical, they are more stressed.
5. Dating: Navigating the world of dating and sexuality is very challenging for a teenager. Whether they are painfully shy and hardly allow themselves to have a crush, or are dating constantly and sexually active, this causes stress for adolescents. It’s really important to help your teen make wise dating choices during their adolescence. Keep in mind that if they aren’t getting help from you, they’re getting it from other teenagers. Who is more likely to give good advice? So, please don’t put your head in the sand and please don’t forbid dating. That only causes your teenagers to sneak. Instead put good boundaries around dating and monitor it as best you can.
There are a few other things that cause anxiety in your teenagers. Because this post was getting too long, I’ve broken it into two posts. You’ll get the last 5 sources of anxiety early next week.
The reason I thought it was important to write about this is that it is really easy for parents to lose perspective on what troubles your teenagers. A simple reminder can help you get into their shoes. With a little empathy and patience, you can help them work through a lot of their stress.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT