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10 tips for dealing with teenage anxiety

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

"It feels like my brain is going to explode sometimes; exams, keeping on top of school work, friendship hassles, thinking about the future, it all just gets a bit too much," says 16-year-old Natasha.

She's not alone in feeling anxious. Some 88% of teenagers have experienced stress in the past year according to a study by the National Citizen Service.

"We think anxiety in teenagers is rising," says Nicky Lidbetter, chief executive of Anxiety UK. "Life is definitely more stressful now. There's the pressure to get good grades and teens are well aware the world of employment is tougher than it was."

But Nicky also says: "More young people are coming forward to talk about their anxiety because a lot of teenagers are battling with it on a daily basis."
It's true there's a lot for teens these days to get anxious about. Exam pressure is one of the main forms of stress but teens are also anxious about the responsibility of making choices that may affect their lives for years to come. Emotional and social pressures are also heaped on teens, with many experiencing dating, alcohol and sex for the first time.

"Anxiety is on the acceptable end of the mental health spectrum," says Nicky. "But it may develop into an anxiety disorder if there's not enough support."

So how can a parent help their teen to deal with stress and anxiety?

1. Be calm

"Stress is the way we react to day to day challenges, and for teenagers challenges are coming from every angle - exams, relationships, social media pressure," says Janey Downshire, who co-runs Teenagers Translated and is a specialist in teenage development.

"Parents should try to be as calm as possible at home in response to their teenager's ups and downs. They tend to copy your emotions so your calmness is mirrored back to your child which helps them to self regulate," she adds.

Although your teen may be pushing all of your buttons, try not to explode as it won't achieve anything and it'll make the situation worse.

"Stress manifests itself in bad behaviour and if parents react to it they get hooked in and it leads to more stress," warns Janey.

2. Communicate

Even though your teen may often prefer to talk things over with their friends rather than you, it's essential to keep lines of communication open.

"The dynamics of your communication should change," says Janey. "Try to adopt the 'I'm here for you, if you need me' approach rather than just telling your child what to do. They don't want another lecture."

"As a parent have an open dialogue with your child but also be prepared to talk to the school or college about any anxiety issues too," says Nicky.

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