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I Have Anxiety About My Daughter's Anxiety & Here's What I'm Doing About It

teens and anxiety

I could tell she had been crying the minute I answered the phone.

So it was going to be one of those talks.

On the other end was my tearful daughter (a college junior), who was having a panic attack trying to juggle the next week of projects, papers, and an internship.

Her call reminded me of something I've become increasingly aware of: the rising rates of anxiety among teens and young adults. Anxiety has now surpassed depression as the most common mental health diagnosis among college students. More than half of students visiting campus clinics cite anxiety as a health concern, according to a recent study of more than 100,000 students nationwide by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State.

I'm not going to lie: this anxiety factoid gives me anxiety.

As a parent of a student who suffers from severe anxiety,  I've been trying to figure out the best ways to help my daughter, as well as my sons who are both in high school and experiencing their own levels of stress. While I don't have a fail-proof road map, I have learned a few things so far.

Related: Check out our podcast on how to help your teen with anxiety at They Say podcast

Here are 4 Things I'm Doing To Help My Daughter With Anxiety

1. I'm keeping the lines of communication open and honest

When my daughter first started experiencing anxiety, she did an excellent job of covering it up, both from herself and from those closest to her. It wasn't until the anxiety got too overwhelming for her to handle on her own that she finally opened up about what she was experiencing.

Since then I've worked hard to maintain open lines of communication, and to reassure her that she can be honest with me about how she's feeling. I don't want her to worry about worrying me or disappointing me (and therefore pass off things as better than they are) so I listen calmly without reacting, dismissing her feelings, or immediately trying to "fix" things.

2. I'm helping her explore healthy ways to cope

Stress is a natural part of life, and there's nothing I can do to change that. But what I can do is help her recognize how certain choices might compound stress, and coach her through a variety of healthy ways to cope. I ask questions about the things that are causing her stress, and help her prioritize the things she can tackle, focusing on one doable item at a time. I also help her explore what things she can eliminate and teaching her how to give herself permission to let go or say "no" to certain commitments or pressures to please others. Another coping strategy I remind her of is to make healthy body choices - through regular physical exercise, getting enough sleep, and eating healthy. Lastly - I try to point her back to God. A lot. I often text her Bible verses along with words of encouragement. I remind her that God is alongside her every step of the way, and to take her worries to him in prayer. She loves yoga, so I've also encouraged her to use her yoga time as a time of mind/body/soul nourishment with reflection and meditation focused on Jesus.

3. I'm helping her get connected to the resources and support she needs

There is a lot of help available for teens and young adults struggling with anxiety. Family doctors, guidance counselors, campus health centers, coaches, youth/young adult pastors, and friends are just a few places that can offer support.

With my daughter, I knew that she needed professional help. I also recognized she needed to "own" this decision by choosing her support, and that trying to force her into a specific group our counselor wouldn't work. But I also knew that I could help provide her with information and options that she was too overwhelmed to collect herself. So I researched, I asked friends for referrals, I interviewed a few people. I shared what I found and then let her make her own choices. The only option that wasn't an option was to do nothing.

4. I'm trying to not be afraid (or ashamed) to accept the reality of anxiety

Confession: it was scary to listen to my daughter share her anxious thoughts. I worried about her future. I worried about what her friends and peers would think--that they would treat her differently. I worried for her safety and health. And I worried that somehow I'd let her down as a mom because I'd missed (ignored?) some signs along the way.

The most effective solution I've found for these worries has been prayer. Giving my anxiety about her anxiety over to Jesus (sometimes every five minutes) has consistently reminded me that he cares for her even more than I do, and that she's not alone. I can't take away her anxiety for her, but he can. I can't think clearly for her when she's stressed, but his voice can break through her fear. And I can't choose peace on her behalf, but his peace covers her.

By the time we got off the phone, both of us felt more relaxed and peaceful. We're figuring this out, one conversation at a time. And as we head into the next six weeks of final projects and tests, I'm praying for all of my kids to reach out when anxiety shakes their confidence.

Parent, if you have a child struggling with anxiety, or know that these next few weeks will be particularly stressful, take one easy step with me: let's pray right now.

Jesus, thank you for these kids. We love their courage and their desire to be pleasing to you and others. Help us give them wisdom and a listening ear, and to not freak out when they're freaking out. Show all of us steps we can take today to invite peace and remove stress from our schedules. We thank you for your help with anxiety. Amen.

Related: Check out our podcast on how to help your teen with anxiety at They Say podcast

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Showing 19 comments
  • Avatar
    Shearro
    Reply

    I have a 21 year old son who was diagnosed with depression. I believe he also suffers from anxiety. He refuses to take medication to treat his depression. Instead he self medicated with marijuana. Recently due to an upcoming job opportunity he has discontinued marijuana usage. He is struggling with thoughts unhealthy thoughts and self worth. He states he has no purpose on this earth. I have talked to him about counseling with no avail…

    • Avatar
      Stephanie Hillberry
      Reply

      It’s heavy to hear about your son–we’re so sorry that he is having such a hard time. We also know that as a mom, his pain is your pain. Thanks for sharing, and please know that we will be praying for your family.

      • Avatar
        T M Prabhu
        Reply

        I am having son 22 years engineer graduate also got Job in march. Few days back his grand mother expired and few months back his grand father expired..last few days his behavior changed to worrying on everything in day to day life.. Because of covid 19 Pandemic.. Lockdown from 15 th March.. 20. How to deal with this situation

  • Avatar
    Claire
    Reply

    My daughter has anxiety and also high functioning autism, she’s been without education for almost 2 years because of that and bullying. She’s found a new school but recently the ugly head of anxiety has reared again. I’m praying gard for it to go because it takes over. Many thanks for your honest article

    • Avatar
      Mimi
      Reply

      Hello. My daughter is 21 and HF too. She seems good then tells me she wants to die. She has a therapist again. They seem to either quit, move retire. So we have yet another one. She isn’t on drugs or alcohol and works out. Has a good healthy regime. But I’m worried. She won’t take pills and I heard enough bad things so I agree with her on that. She quit HS when I had late stage cancer, that was 4 years ago. She has her hobbies and bf but I like her to have a fuller happier life. She is 21 so I can only do so much. I don’t want to come across as controlling. Last thing I need to do here… but I wish there was more I could do. Hopefully this new T will stick around and someone will actually help her.

      • Avatar
        M
        Reply

        Hi
        I do not not know if this is to late.
        You might want to look into online schooling.
        That way she will graduate high school and can go on with her life(when she is ready)

        MJ

  • Avatar
    Mama of anxious teen
    Reply

    My 13 year old daughter was diagnosed with generalized anxiety last year and was put on Zoloft. This year she developed text anxiety and her social anxiety is worse. She’s seen a psychiatrist and is now on Lexapro and is in counseling. She is still struggling a lot though. But now my thing is my anxiety and depression. I had postpartum pretty bad and was on Lexapro for several years. And this year I have been feeling all that again. But for me to be well for her, I am needing some help again. I will be seeing my doctor this week. But as I have researched this online, I’ve noticed that there is not a lot of info on how a parent can deal with there own mental issues while they’re helping their anxious child other than medication. Like support community that I can reach out to. Is there anything you can recommend?

  • Avatar
    Nikki
    Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. My father in law suffers from anxiety but no panic attacks. My oldest child has been having panic attacks just recently. She’s 19, a freshman in college, in a business club where she competes & is going to CA next month because she won a competition at our state level so she is getting to go compete nationally, she makes sure her grades are all A’s & B’s , she has so many scholarships she’s actually making money going to college, I also have a total of 5 kids including her so our house is always chaotic, and she works Thursday nights, Fridays from lunch till 9 or 10pm & Saturdays from 3pm to close at our community restaurant (it pays good money in cash). Honestly it’s not as much as some students have on themselves but for Taylor it’s a lot. She also suffers from lupus. She’s not on meds for it because she doesn’t have joint pain or low grade fevers from it. Just the fatigue so when she needs to take a nap or rest we let her. Stress is the WORST thing for lupus & could cause it to become active which would cause her to have to take medications to control it. All lupus meds have side effects. I also have lupus & am on meds for mine. So me worrying about her being stressed & having panic attacks is making mine worse. She actually told me tonight to get her some meds for anxiety. I’d really like to try some all natural home remedies & preventative measures first. She’s not depressed. She’s normally a very happy go lucky kind of personality. They have a lot of drama going on at work which I know has had her upset lately. My husband & I have told her to quit & we don’t care if she works. She just likes the money & having some to spend. She is VERY sensitive to any kind of meds so I worry about her being dopey like if she takes anxiety meds. I take lexapro myself but I didn’t start on them till I was 28. She only takes birth control. Recently she has been taking a multi vitamin & a probiotic. But that’s it. I also want to thank you for reminding me about the power of prayer! And I’m planing on praying with her. I’ve always prayed for her. But also leaning on scripture. Honestly she mostly has panic attacks when she has too much going on like drama at work at during mid terms & finals. I’ve told her to get off caffeine. I hadn’t thought about that. She is & always has been very tall & very thin. She doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her. But she eats junk & loves sugar! So I’ve mentioned eating a healthier diet to her. Also any home remedies or preventative measures anyone knows of or uses I’d love to know about.

    • Avatar
      Jen
      Reply

      Hi – we have visited a integrative doctor (naturopath). She ran a full blood panel on my daughter and we have found some natural supplements to help w anxiety.
      5htp and rhodiola. Along w kavinace for quick acting: calms her . There is a tapping technique that’s simple and easy to use . A-
      Check it out on You tube .

  • Avatar
    Dawn
    Reply

    I have a 13 year old daughter who has a lot of anxiety about going to school. She want me to home school her but I don’t feel that will help with learning to deal with with being around people .Do you have suggestions how to help her though these issue.

  • Avatar
    P mock
    Reply

    Thank you for all of this information and stories. My daughter is 18 in the past couple years has struggled With anxiety. She is in her first real relationship and worries about losing him. Anxiety and now depression have increased considerably. She did start taking birth control as precaution although I’m not sure how Intimate they are. I think the hormones are making things more intense for her. She agrees. She doesn’t take any medication and Would rather not if possible. Her dad and I are finally ready to accept that anxiety and depression are real for her. It’s a hard thing for parents to accept. I am at a loss of what to do for her. We prayed together tonight. And I came across your post and I really needed this! I know God pointed me to you. She said she just wants to feel normal and happy again and asks how did I get here Mom!? It’s just heartbreaking. What can I do? She goes back to college in two weeks and says she has to feel better before then or She won’t make it.

  • Avatar
    Amy
    Reply

    Hi. I am dealing with my 19 year old daughter who has in the last year been dealing with anxiety and depression. She has cut her self in the past, which scares me to the core. She has tattooed herself in places you can’t cover up, shaved her head etc. She is going to therapy, which seems to be helping, but she is just mean to us as parents and 2 siblings. If she can’t get her own way she throws a fit. If it’s not her way it’s no way even with her friends. I’m at a loss. She will not take medication not even vitamins that may help. Reading your stories has helped thinking I’m not alone. It hurts me so much I feel like it’s all my fault and she makes a point of it to say it is my fault. That I haven’t been around and a bad mother. I’m so stressed out and don’t know what to do to help her. Just pray every day!!!!

  • Avatar
    Susan papszycki
    Reply

    I have very similar situation , I’m so overwhelmed now with 3 children with excessive absences, no social life ( my kids and myself) we all stay inside most of day watch tv, movies, computer activities) I want them in clubs etc. So will look and place this summer. They all have no friends outside of school and family,which is so different from my teen years. My marriage sinking also, financial troubles, and I’m unable to work and still not applied for
    on disability.

  • Avatar
    Ngozi Mozie
    Reply

    My daughter is going to study in Canada far away from Nigeria.
    Recently she’s been diagoned with anxiety and I sincerely don’t know how to allow her to go to Canada with this particularly when she s unhappy sometimes.
    What should I do since we love in Nigeria.

    Warm regards,
    Ngozi

  • Avatar
    Michelle Ralbovsky
    Reply

    My son, who has not show. Sign of anxiety or depression has become severely depressed away at school and only has a month and a half till graduation and is spent. We told him to come home and he wants too, he is just trying to talk to counselors at school who have not been able to yet give him the info he needs to leave. He has such a bad taste in his mouth for this school, they have made him redo 4 month long internship because they didn’t file the paperwork properly and then didn’t give him that info to do something about it and many other things that has extended his time their and he hates everything about the school, he feels they don’t care about the students and only looking to make money from them. I have never heard my child talk like that before. He is now at a point of failing, can’t sleep, has no ambition to do anything he used to enjoy, can’t concentrate in school, when he can sleep, sleeps through many alarms. He won’t go see a counselor on campus. Gave examples of me and my husband and how live took unexpected turns and turned out good. I’m just so unsure that I’m telling him the right things, any advice?

  • Avatar
    Teresa
    Reply

    It is 5:00 am and I have been up since 2:30after a text from my 19 year old daughter telling me she isn’t in a good place . After speaking to her and her reassuring me she was “ok” she said she was going to try and sleep. She has not been able to sleep on a normal cycle ( if at all ) for almost 3 years now. Her mental health fluctuates . She has tried a few therapists and numerous medications none of which have helped. We live in a rural area so resources are limited. I guess I am just asking for prayers for her

  • Avatar
    L'Tayna
    Reply

    I have a 27 year old daughter with both anxiety and depression. It’s extremely hard to deal with. This is my very first time leaving a comment any where. I usually just read. But now I’m feeling HELPLESS. I’m mean, I’m the mom, right?! How did I miss this for so long?! She stopped nursing school because of her condition. She’s so smart and talented, and to see her basically stopped in her tracks because of this, breaks my heart. I’vw handled this situation so wrong for so long. But the comments and suggestions here here may help me to help my daughter. I yhink the strongest thing i saw was, PRAY/PRAYER. These kids of ours, are so strong. To wake up everyday, being mentally pulled in different directions constantly, is a miracle in itself. There’s a little more comfort seeing I’m not alone. I will pray for you and yiur children, so that we may all find peace in our situations. May God bless.

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