When it comes to calming anxiety, we are becoming well-versed in strategies and coping skills. Take deep breaths, refocus your mind, talk with someone you trust, try journaling, and practice self-care!
As helpful as these are, none of these are new to us and none are new to our teenagers. Teens are growing up familiar with these strategies, largely because they are a structured part of their routine in school or extracurricular activities. Teachers incorporate journaling and mindfulness in their assignments to help students employ helpful stress management as they navigate academic pressures. Coaches engage teens in breathing exercises to calm pre-game nerves. Social media adds its voice as anxiety-reducing strategies have become a ubiquitous part of a teen’s digital feed through “Tik-Tok counselors” and “Insta-famous” influencers offering endless mental health advice. Yet, our teens are as anxious as ever.
This prevalence of anxiety among teens has become a cause for concern. And while coping strategies are valuable and necessary it is important to emphasize that, as Christians, we have what may be the most important, yet underestimated, resource to help an anxious teen: your own relationship and access to the living God during anxious times. Christians trust in a faithful and loving God who promises to be our refuge and strength in trouble.
Our example of leaning on God during challenging times will influence and shape the way our teens navigate anxiety. We have the opportunity to display that we are in God’s loving hands, even when we face fear and uncertainty. None of us is beyond feeling overwhelmed and distressed, and we don’t always exhibit unwavering faith and unshakable trust. That’s okay. By turning to God in your weakness, you are modeling faith. Here are some ways you can help your teen manage anxiety through your own example of faith even while you too are a work in progress.
1. Faithfully anchor yourself to the Lord in times of turmoil
Though they may not readily admit it, teens look to their parents as role models for how to navigate life’s uncertainties. When they witness us leaning on our faith during difficult times, they learn the value of entrusting their own worries to God. When we commit to trusting God amid uncertainty even though we don’t see the answers, we are teaching teens to do the same. Demonstrating a firm commitment to the Lord and his trustworthy love and providence gives you peace and provides your teen with assurance that they too can find rest in his loving care.
2. Cultivate an atmosphere of prayer
Prayer is a powerful tool for combating anxiety. Taking your burdens to God is a comfort for you and shows your teen where to go in distress. Pray without ceasing and let your teens see it. Invite them to pray for you and with you when you face anxious times. Involve them in family prayers and encourage them to share their concerns with God. Pray together as you face challenges. As you show them the significance of prayer in your own life, you equip them with a spiritual foundation on which to lean when anxiety rises.
3. Rely on God’s Word as a source of strength
The Bible is filled with hopeful reminders of God’s faithfulness, love, and protection. When you face anxiety it can be easy to get caught up in your own thoughts and problem-solving strategies. Regularly immersing yourself in the Word, however, will give you an arsenal of promises to rely on when trouble comes. When teens see us turning to Scripture for guidance, they understand that God’s Word is a reliable source of strength and assurance in distress. Invite them into what God is teaching you. Encourage them to meditate on passages that highlight God’s care and his faithfulness to his people.
4. Embrace vulnerability
As parents we sometimes think we need to be pillars of unwavering strength and confidence in front of our teens. Embracing our frailty and humanity, however, can be powerful in guiding teens through their own anxiety. Share stories of times when you faced fear and uncertainty and yet found strength through your faith and trust in God. Be honest about your own struggles. Share how the Lord faithfully carried you through. When you do this, you show your teens that anxiety can be the very means that God uses to build faith. It also shows them that trusting God does not mean you will not face struggles but that you have hope amid those struggles.
Christians are called to be examples of faith to the watching world; our teens are part of the watching world. While coping strategies are necessary and wise to employ to help teens navigate anxiety, do not underestimate the power of your example of faith as you face challenges. Remember that our actions can speak louder than skills and strategies. We are not tasked to be perfect but our example of persevering, dependent faith can inspire our teens to find comfort, hope, and help from a loving God who knows our frame, understands our struggles, and is faithful to all generations.
Teens and Anxiety: How Parents can help
Anxiety is the number one mental health issue facing people today, and teens are not exempt. The causes are many—school pressure, relationship struggles, social media issues—and the results can be debilitating for your teen. Counselor Eliza Huie gives parents a biblical overview of how to respond to your anxious teen with simple tools to alleviate the immediate effects of anxiety.