This article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 edition of Action News for the Christian Action Federation of NB.
Fear and anxiousness is something everyone has felt before to one degree or another. Whether it has arisen in moments of stress or as a response to change, we have all experienced what is feels like to be overcome with anxiety for a brief period of time. Experiencing moments of stress or anxiety is a completely normal, expected response to difficult situations. However, anxiety has become a chronic, everyday reality for an approximate 3 million Canadians.
As we stop and look at your world and the current climate of everything that is taking place, it is easy to see the rise in stress and anxiety. Whether it be fear surrounding Covd-19, stress of the economic fluctuations, the pain of not being able to see love ones or the emotional whiplash of trying to keep up with the ever-changing regulations, it is obvious that people are being strongly affected. It’s easy to feel like we, as adults, are the only ones who feel anxiety, but the reality is, anxiety is an ever-growing struggle for today’s children and youth. This can be a difficult obstacle to understand, but there are so many ways that we can help our youth face their anxiety.
One of the most important things you can do to help an adolescent who is dealing with anxiety is to listen. This seems like it is way too easy to actually be effective, but in fact this is the doorway into understanding, engaging with and working alongside your youth. The struggle with this is, we need to listen with the intent to actually hear what is being said, not just to spew advice and opinions in their direction. When we listen, we not only learn more about them and what they are facing, but we also begin to gain trust. If we can prove that we are a safe space for them to share their successes as well as their struggles, we will begin to be invited deeper into their lives.
Along the same vein of the importance of listening, it is important to believe them and understand that their experience is different than yours. I have often heard the false idea thrown around that “kids these days are just weak” or “when I was a kid, we just rolled up our sleeves and dealt with it”. Not only are these not helpful comments, they also do not fully capture the reality. While it is true that teens today can learn important and valuable lessons from their parents and grandparents experiences, it is also true that they are growing up in a very different and unique climate. The rise of social media, technology, pressure to be constantly connected and ability to communicate with anyone at anytime, has aided in the creation of a very different childhood and teenage experience. This doesn’t mean that wisdom can not be passed down, but instead stresses the importance that we do so with compassion and willingness to learn.
Putting the effort into becoming more educated about anxiety is also a key step in being able to offer support. The more we know about anxiety, the more equipped we are to guide our teens in the right direction. For some, they may experience moments of anxiety that can be overcome with good communication, a healthy diet, some exercise and the setting of healthy boundaries. For others, they may experience more chronic anxiety that would be best handled with visiting a counselor or possibly considering medication. Each person is different, but having some basic knowledge around the topic empowers you to more effectively walk alongside your teen in getting the help they need.
While this has briefly outlined a few of the key components of supporting your teen through their anxiety, I believe the most important factor to remember is to invite God into your anxiety. He knows His children, He is with us in our joy and pain and through it all, He remains the same. The beauty of remembering who God is and the trust you can place in Him in the midst of fear and anxiety can provide peace. This doesn’t mean that everyone can say a prayer and wave goodbye to their anxiety, but it does mean that as we walk towards anxiety, we don’t walk alone. We walk alongside a God who is bigger, stronger and more powerful than any fear, anxiousness or panic. If our youth can grab ahold of this Truth, it has the potential to transform their lives.