Puberty is an especially challenging time for both teenagers and their parents. Those going through puberty are changing daily, with new hormones and experiences that affect their view of the world around them and potentially also their mental health. Parents of teenagers often live with the repercussions of those changes and are sometimes on the receiving end of many different experiences that cause worries or concerns.
This article explores anxiety linked to puberty from the perspective of both teenagers and parents and provides some tips for how to cope.
We'll start by looking at anxiety in parents, and continue by examining anxiety in teenagers. It's important to note that the more anxiety you experience in your day to day life, the more likely you are to be stressed out by your child hitting puberty.
It's easy to see why so many parents struggle with their mental health when raising a child through puberty. Just some of the many causes of anxiety include:
- Challenging Behaviors Puberty is the time in a child's life when they start to find their place in the world, and often that means challenging their parents. Many early teenagers become more aggressive as a way to exert their dominance and as a natural reaction to their increased hormones. Unfortunately, for the parent, this can represent a very stressful time that is hard to cope with.
- New Behaviors In addition to challenging behaviors, the new behaviors that come from hormonal and behavioral changes linked to puberty - such as sexual interest, increased independence, a wider range of emotions, risk taking and so on - are all foreign to parents that have known these children since they were young. That can mean that it becomes more difficult to figure out how to raise them, thus leading to new anxiety.
- Busy Schedules Parents of teenagers are often on very busy schedules as well. If you're someone that is already dealing with anxiety, or someone whose life is already stressful enough, the difficult nature of a child's new demands can bring in more stress and anxiety into your life.
- Anxious Child Anxiety can also spread like a disease in some ways, and for children going through puberty, anxiety is very common. If your child is suffering from anxiety themselves, you may also suffer from anxiety, which in turn may contribute to your child's anxiety.
- Natural Feelings of Loss Finally, when a child reaches puberty, they are starting on their path to becoming an adult, and for many parents, this can represent a naturally stressful time simply because their child is slowly becoming an independent adult.
These are just some of the issues that can bring anxiety into the lives of parents with puberty-age children.
How to Control This Anxiety
Parents that are suffering from anxiety as a result of their child reaching puberty need to be able to calm themselves both for their own mental health and for their child's. A stressed parent contributes to a stressed child, and even the negative behaviors (like aggression) may be more common when the parent finds the child's actions to cause anxiety.
Controlling this type of anxiety isn't easy, but there are strategies that work. They include:
- Creating a Happiness Plan When you find yourself stressed or anxious, it's important that you have a plan for what you can do to improve your mood. Uncertainty creates more anxiety. Unfortunately, many parents find that they end up contributing to their child's anxiety issues because they don't know how to handle their own. So create an action plan: something you do each and every time you experience anxiety, stress, or a low mood. Preferably it's something that puts you in a happy, good mood, and allows you to deal with any of your child's emotional issues. This could be a matter of, for example, taking a walk in nature to cool off, meditating, going to gym or listening to some calming music - whatever works for you.
- Plan a Life For Yourself Your child is growing up, and so while this can cause anxiety over what raising an older child is like, it also has its perks. You can finally start to do a bit more of the activities you've wanted to do. Make sure you're spending time with your friends, staying physically active (exercise is extremely important for mental health), and take a little bit of the focus off of your son or daughter. They're still developing, but now they're starting to come into their own, which means you need to get used to coming back into your own.
- Focus on Other Anxieties When you have anxiety in other areas of your life, it bleeds into the way you deal with your pubescent child. If you can reduce your overall anxiety levels, dealing with a child that has issues related to puberty will be much easier. So make sure that you're also looking for ways to decrease stress and anxiety in every part of your life, not just with your parenting. Psychotherapy and/or anxiety treatment programs might represent a good option for you.
The reality is that it is hard to raise a child that has hit puberty. But it's a challenge that all parents need to go through. Remember, learn how to cope with most anxiety and find strategies to to cope with the stress that having an adolescent can bring, and you'll be better for it as a result.
If you're a youth that's in the process of going through puberty, the most important thing to remember is that everything you feel is normal, even if not all of it makes sense in the moment.
When you go through puberty, all of the following issues occur at once:
- Hormonal Changes Hormones don't just change your body. They also change the way you think and the emotions you experience. That means that you're going to have feelings and emotions that don't always make sense and may be a bit uncomfortable. Irritation, anger, sadness and a low self-esteem are all examples of feelings that adolescents may struggle with.
- Puberty Changes Puberty causes a lot of strange feelings and physical changes that can make you uncomfortable. Sometimes you may not even realize you're uncomfortable, but when you experience so many new things because you've hit puberty, it's not uncommon to feel weird in your own skin, like you're not the same person anymore. That can cause anxiety.
- Normal Aging 12 to 18 can be years that are really challenging. Because of things like hormones, school difficulties, and the issues that come up in social situations, it's not uncommon to feel anxiety and nervousness all the time. Nearly everyone experiences this, and what's amazing is that when you're older, and you come into your own, you sometimes wonder how and why you ever felt that way.
When you're going through the puberty years, it's easy to feel like the way you're feeling will be the same forever. But it’s important to remember that those changes and uncomfortable experiences most often pass on their own with time.
What Can You Do to Reduce Anxiety?
One of the hard things is that hormones really do change the way you think. That can make it harder to stop anxiety because you're always going to feel like your emotions are "normal" even when they're not.
It's so important to remember that things in life are only as important as you make them. When you get into a fight with your parents or someone says something bad about you in school, it's only important if you let it be important. By changing the way we think about something, we can change the way that we feel.
One thing you should definitely do is make sure you're exercising. Exercising releases chemicals in your brain that make your mood better. This can also improve your confidence and self-esteem. It's especially important nowadays when many kids spend too much time sitting in front of their computer.
Also, don't be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is one of the most important things you can do when you have anxiety. Trying to deal with it all on your own is very hard, especially when you're young, so asking for help and telling people how you feel - especially people you can trust - is one of the best ways to cope.
Finding a Cure for Anxiety Experienced During Puberty
For both parents and children dealing with puberty, these years can be stressful. It's natural that they're going to cause some issues that can bring stress into your life.
But the more you manage your anxiety and the faster you seek help, the more you can enjoy life and get the most out of each and every day.