In a world where anxiety runs high for a wide array of reasons, it is not only adults who feel the pinch. Children, especially teenagers struggle with fears that can have a great impact on numerous facets of their life, from school results and relationships to physical and mental health. Studies have shown that teens experience fear even after the threat has been removed from their environment. Thus, it is important to help them deal with their fears in a healthy way to successfully get over them.
Here’s where to start:
1. Show understanding
The best way to start helping your teenager face their fears is by understanding what it is they are feeling. Give them an example that they can relate to which demonstrates how you need to face the fear in order to lose the fear of it. For example, if a teen is afraid of water that wants to spend time with his friends at the pool, he needs to face the fear and get in the water. This will help him to realize that it is safe to get in the water. He will need to practice swimming in order to feel less anxious about the water.
In order to show that you truly understand their fears, tell them about one of your own fears that you worked through and got over. Explain that it takes time and start with small steps to slowly reduce their anxiety.
2. List their Fears
Sometimes teens have a number of fears which are possibly related. Work with them or if they prefer to work alone, allow them to list everything that they fear. Once you have a full list, group the fears into categories. They may be afraid of a number of social situations, such as saying “hello” to a classmate or teacher, raising their hand in class to ask a question, or even to make new friends.
Once you have a complete list and categories, start working through them one at a time, starting slowly. With the examples above, start by encouraging them to simply say “hello”. Once the begin feeling less anxious about this fear, move on to the next one. It’s important that you remain patient with them and encourage them gently. If your teen is afraid of learning to drive, start off by letting them simply sit in the driver’s seat with the engine running. Progress to letting them roll forward along a deserted road or parking lot. Only once they are able to move up and down the road comfortably, let them drive on quieter roads and slowly advance to busier traffic.
In achieving progress in anything, setting goals is always important. Let your teen think about something they really would like, whether it is a new outfit, a new TV game, a trip to their favorite restaurant. Help them to set minor and major goals. For every small step in overcoming their fear they receive a minor reward, and when they have completely overcome their fear, they receive the major reward. This will help to keep them motivated to keep trying.