Navigating the teenager years is hard. Navigating the teenager world while dealing with anxiety or other mental health issue can seem impossible for both the student and the parents on the other end. Trying to understand the root of their issues, researching and learning all you can about their disorder, and balancing that with encouraging them to be successful and productive can cause tension in any child/parent relationship.
The first thing you can do if you know your child is suffering from depression, anxiety or other disorder is interfering with your child being able pass his/her classes, is to talk to their teacher, guidance counselor or principal. So many parents try to figure out a solution on their own, and forget that educational professionals want parents to reach out to them with questions and concerns. They appreciate parents who notice an issue and bring it to their attention, allowing both the professional and the parent to work together for the best interest of the student. Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open.
When you discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher, you may be able to work together to come up with simple accommodations that will make it easier for your teen to focus and do their best. Some of these accommodations might include:
- Changing the placement of the student’s seat
- Allowing students with severe social anxiety to present class presentations to the teacher alone instead of the whole class
- Establishing a “safe person” that knows your teens individuals issues and can be reached throughout the school day should your teen need a break, to calm down, or just to talk
- Teens who are severely anxious have a hard time dealing with a change in routine. Consider setting up a system that allows the teacher to send home a note explaining an upcoming change in routine or schedule so the teen has time to process and mentally prepare.
- Extended time during tests may be required for some students with learning and/or social disorders. This so something an education professional can determine after meeting with the teen.
One of the most important things you can do as a parent is remember that mental illness is a real thing, a serious thing, and something that is widely misunderstood in our culture today. Saying things like “just let it go” or “calm down” aren’t helpful, because if your teen could calm down or let it go, they would. Establishing a support system at home is vital to your child’s success in school and in life. Even if it is hard for your to understand why your child feels physically ill at the mere thought of walking into a busy cafeteria and finding a seat, but it a real issue for them and needs to be addressed.
OCD, social anxiety, depression, general anxiety PTSD and panic attacks are things that can cause a teen to dread school, and in some cases, stop going altogether. As parents, it is important to notice the signs of anxiety and be diligent in making sure your child gets the help he/she needs to feel confident and capable at school.
For more information about teens and anxiety, check out this site: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/anxiety_disorders_teenagers.html