The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside-down. All the uncertainties and changes cause stress. Unstuck! is a workbook for tweens and teens to help them manage stress and anxiety, express emotions, and cultivate creativity and gratitude. Hear author Bonnie Zucker, PsyD, read Unstuck! aloud. Download your free copy of Unstuck!: 10 Things to Do to Stay Safe and Sane During the Pandemic here.Read More
Being a teenager is hard enough, but the COVID-19 pandemic has added new aspects of uncertainty, isolation, and potential danger to the challenges teens navigate. Is your teen experiencing run-of-the-mill worries, or dealing with a pattern of excessive anxiety? In this repost from January 2018, you can explore the difference and find some tips to help you spot signs of anxiety in teens. For many parents, it’s difficult to understand whether your teenager is feeling worried over routine events and situations—a fallout with a friend, perhaps—or experiencing more significant symptoms of anxiety. The teen years are full of stressful moments that warrant some worrying, and teens sometimes even relish and thrive on the modern-day stress culture. For example, a teen saying, “Ugh, I have so much work to do!” could consider it a badge of honor. But roughly 31 percent of teens in the U.S. experience more extreme symptoms that constitute an anxiety disorder.1 For these teens, the symptoms go beyond the occasional sleepless night or emotional outburst, signaling an underlying condition. So, how do you know the difference between an appropriate amount of worry and possible excessive anxiety? What is the difference between anxiety and worry? It’s normal for teenagers (and people of all ages) to worry from time to time—it makes sense to feel worried before the first day of school, for example. In some instances, feeling some anxiety about a situation can actually help keep us safe. Imagine that you encounter a large, snarling dog during a walk; your mind starts to get anxious and communicates a feeling of danger, and you slowly back away. What escalates those worries into unhelpful anxiety is when your mind tells you that a situation is dangerous when it isn’t, or when the chance of danger is very small or unlikely. That communication causes your body to react as if the danger is real. One way to think of it: Replace the large, snarling dog in the previous example with a tiny Chihuahua, but imagine that your body responds with the same fight-or-flight reaction. In that instance, you’re experiencing unhelpful anxiety. What are some anxiety symptoms in teens? For teenagers throughout every generation, much of the anxiety they experience revolves around being left out or being judged by their peers. But this generation of teenagers also faces the relatively new phenomenon of social media pressures. Bundled together, it can be a lot to handle and can result in anxiety. Typically, most anxiety and fears diminish or disappear in less than six months. If your teen has been feeling anxious off and on for a long time, or if the anxiety doesn’t pass in a few days, it can be considered excessive. In teenagers, anxiety is typically made up of three components: an anxious mind, an anxious body, and anxious actions. These three components feed off of each other, and create a system we refer to as the Worry Wheel. The Worry Wheel starts when your teen experiences a thought that makesRead More
Help Your Little Worrier Stay Calm
A Feel Better Book for Little Worriers helps children understand what worries are and what to do when they are feeling worried. From verses that demonstrate body awareness to coping strategies for kids, A Feel Better Book is not only enjoyable for children to read, but also helpful for both children and caregivers. To learn more about how you can help your child cope with worries, check out our article Stress Management Exercises for Anxious Children.
Around the world, children’s social lives have drastically changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent physical distancing. For many children, these changes represent major losses of beloved activities, including school, extra-curricular activities, and playdates. For socially anxious children, however, the many cancellations may come as a relief since they no longer need to attend potentially anxiety-provoking activities. As a parent or caretaker, it can be concerning to watch your socially anxious child withdraw during this already challenging time. However, there are many small steps you can take to encourage your child to be social and build skills in this area—even during the pandemic. Why Facing Fears is Important It is important for socially anxious children to practice engaging in social situations, even though it is hard. This is because when children consistently avoid something that they fear, their brain misses out on several key learning opportunities. These include the chance to learn that the situation is rarely as bad as anxiety predicts it will be, that they can handle feelings of anxiety even though they are uncomfortable, and that their level of anxiety will likely decrease if they stay in the social situation. In a socially anxious child’s typical day to day life, they have countless opportunities to practice engaging in social situations to teach their brain these important lessons. By creating opportunities for your socially anxious child to continue to engage with peers in quarantine, you can help their brains continue to learn these lessons. Create a Bravery Plan Sit down with your child and explain that you want to help them boss back anxiety and continue to practice facing fears, as they were doing so bravely before the quarantine started. It can be helpful to reflect together on how they feel after pushing themselves to engage in a social situation. Proud? Accomplished? Reflect back often to these observations to help build and maintain your child’s motivation. Collaboratively brainstorm with your child a list of potential social interactions. Do your best to get creative and try to think of ways to replicate the activities they participate in during their non-quarantine life. These might include (virtual) playdates, book clubs, singalongs, games, concerts, or show and tell with objects from each child’s home. If classmates or peers live nearby, your child might bike, walk, or scoot by their homes and say a physically-distanced hello. After creating a list, let your child choose where they are comfortable starting. It is usually helpful to start small (e.g., saying “hi” over text to someone they are comfortable with) and eventually build to more challenging interactions. It can be helpful to repeat an activity several times to allow your child to get more comfortable with it before moving on to a slightly harder activity. After your child engages in the activity, have a brief conversation to help them notice if the activity was as scary as anxiety said it would be and if they were able to handle it. This brief reflection helpsRead More