By Chanda Kropp, School Counselor, Hutchinson High School
Parenting teenagers has never been easy, and parenting teenagaers during a pandemic has added a new level of difficulty. As a counseling department, we have noticed symptoms of anxiety in students such as stomach aches, refusal to attend school, and difficulty completing homework. Students identify feeling anxious and overwhelmed which can cause a “freeze” response. This response prevents students from completing tasks and can also make them feel physically ill. Here are a few things to try if you notice your child is feeling anxious.
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Let your child know that the feelings they are experiencing are real. If your teenager mentions they don’t want to go to school or do their homework, ask them why. If they say they don’t know why, ask them about their feelings. In our offices, we have a feelings wheel that students can use to find the feeling they might be experiencing. Sometimes they pick out a feeling I wouldn’t have guessed and then we talk more about what might be causing that feeling. You can google search “feelings wheel” or contact one of the counselors to send you a copy.
- Help your child face their feelings. It is important for students to understand that avoidance can cause more anxiety. Helping your child prioritize what they need to do can be helpful. If your child is refusing to go to school because of a certain class, remind them that the class is only one part of their day. Ask them what they like about other classes and encourage them to focus on something positive. If they are not able to think of a class they like, have them think about someone at school that they can talk to when they start to feel anxious. Encourage your child to reach out to their school counselor, teacher or coach to talk about strategies to help them face their fears.
- Stay Calm. It can be very frustrating to deal with a teenager who does not comply. This can lead to a power struggle which can cause more frustration and more anxiety for the child and parent. Ask your child to take three deep belly breaths or use the “walk and talk” strategy of going outside for a walk to get some fresh air and movement while discussing the situation. Let your child know your feelings too. It is okay to let your child know you are frustrated or worried about them. Sometimes children forget that adults have feelings too.
If you are worried about your child’s anxiety level and it is preventing your child from doing well in school, please reach out for help. You can contact your child’s school counselor, your child’s doctor or Hutchinson Mental Health Clinic.