Tweens/Teens and Anxiety

Tweens/Teens and Anxiety~~a Serious Issue with Serious Ramifications if left untreated…but what is normal tween/teen anxiety and when should I seek treatment for my child?

Adolescence and puberty is a roller coaster ride~ it is a time of big changes inside and outside your child’s body: body development and an influx of hormones….the need for acceptance of peers…academic pressures and much more……no wonder why this time causes stress and anxiety! But when does normal anxiety turn into more troublesome behaviors? Here are a few things you should look for:

~ Does your child appear to be withdrawing? Tweens and teens who feel they can’t cope with the social pressures may start to keep to themselves more as a “defense.” If you see your child backing away from activities and friends he or she use to enjoy…….talk to your child and explore why his or her behavior has changed to determine if there’s a specific source of anxiety which could be eliminated.

~ Does your child often complain of not feeling well or a having an illness? Often tween and teens begin to complain of vague physical symptoms like a headache or stomach and even may ask to stay home from school. Of course…. first rule out any real medical issues…you can also begin by treating the symptoms as if they’re purely physical…such as an antacid to settle an upset tummy or more fruits and veggies to improve digestion~~plenty of water to keep hydrated….but if these interventions fail to resolve your child’s concerns….explore with your child if he or she is “worried” about something at school. Often a deeper inquiry will reveal that the source of the physical discomfort is also psychological. Talk about what is causing stress such as academics or friends (or are there family issues at home a divorce or marital issues impacting your child? )…help your child learn to cope with any of these challenges.

~Does your child appear to be excessively moody? Moodiness and tweens/teens seems to be a normal expectation but sometimes there is a sadness and/or moodiness that persists for more than a couple of weeks…this may be a sign of true depression…. which is a close companion to anxiety. If your child gets into a mood that doesn’t resolve quickly….check in with your pediatrician to see if professional mental health treatment may be needed.

~Does your child have low self-esteem? Remember…. this is a hard time and many tweens do not feel comfortable with their changing body (and all the other things that come along such as acne)…your tween or teen may be so preoccupied with a fear of peer rejection that he or she no longer has an accurate sense of himself or herself. You can help this to some extent by reminding your child of all his/her talents and positive attributes. But it is developmentally appropriate that children this age are more concerned with what their peers think…..so don’t be disappointed that he or she has a difficult time believing you and your encouragement alone.

~ Finally, does your child have an extreme concern of being embarrassed? Tweens and teens during this time can be almost paralyzed by the fear of even the smallest amount of negative attention from peers. Being called on in class, tripping or falling…being teased for their appearance….these feelings of embarrassment can go from a mild fear to a source of serious social anxiety~~~leading to many serious ramifications such as school refusal.

So…..as a parent, if you are still unsure if your child’s anxiety is normal prepubescent behavior or if it is something that may require professional intervention….we’re here to help! Call Suzanne at 973-658-7767

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