Kids and teens are experiencing the impact of anxiety like never before. According to The World Health Organization, anxiety and depression have increased by over 50% between 1990 and 2013. 70% of teens say the #1 issue they face is anxiety.
Anxiety is defined as "a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome".
It's closely related to worry. Anxiety is unchecked worry that makes its way from your head to your heart.
It's also closely related to fear. Fear sees a threat and reacts, whereas anxiety imagines a threat and gets stuck.
It's important that you work through your own anxieties so that you're capable of guiding your child through their anxiety. Model healthy habits and show them how you rely on God during difficult circumstances. Point them to God's truth and share your experience handling anxiety in your life.
Here's a few practical steps to take to help your child with their anxiety:
1. Limit media exposure. Unhealthy social media use is a primary source of anxiety for kids. And if they have a cell phone, they cannot escape it. Communication on social media can be misinterpreted, it can be far more cruel than in-person, and provide a non-stop feed of potentially anxious thoughts. Biased news sources, particularly those selling "fear", can also be a common source of anxiety.
2. Fight against isolation. Even though your child might be fighting for independence, and you want to respect their space, it's wise to be ever-present for your child. Ruminating and spiraling only get worse for a child when they are isolated, without another person to help them discern and think through situations.
3. Avoid negative-thinking. Kids have the tendency to blow things far out of proportion. To them, any worry, fear, or source of anxiety feels like a "10" on the pain scale. Facilitate a conversation with curiosity and questions. Compare their current predicament to other situations, helping them appropriate comprehend what is happening.
Memorize Philippians 4:8. "Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."
4. Exercise and sleep. The basics of self-care can really help a child's brain chemistry and hormone levels. Ensure your child spends time playing outside, has positive peer influences pouring into them, and that they are taking care of their body.