A Therapist’s Guide To Overcoming The Anxiety Of Parenting Teens

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A Therapist’s Guide To Overcoming The Anxiety Of Parenting Teens
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Why are parents parenting their teens from a place of fear?

Too often, parents fear that something is going to happen to their children, that life is going to hurt them.

As a therapist who often works with families, I see so many parents making decisions and parenting their teenagers from a place of anxiety and fear.

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If you're a parent to a teen (or several teens) right now, you know how hard it can be.

We fear that they are somehow not cut out to make it in our world. We see the world as both more competitive but also more dangerous.

We look at our teenagers and are riddled with anxiety that they are just not going to be okay, that bad things might happen to them.

They might not get into a good enough college. They might get hurt. They will find out that they are not good enough for some things, despite their best efforts.

And the list goes on and on and on.

Parenting from a scared and anxious place can be harmful for the upcoming generation.

You see, our kids sense what we really think and believe about them.

If we don’t think they are capable, you bet we are communicating that in ways we don’t even realize. This impacts their thoughts about their abilities as well as their desire to take chances.

If we have limiting beliefs about our children, they are likely to have them as well.

As the mother of a toddler as well as a psychologist working with children, teenagers, their parents, and families as a whole, I've learned that it's better to parent from a place of faith and courage.

We need to communicate to our kids that we believe in them, even when we are terrified that they might mess up or get their hearts broken.

We need to communicate to our kids that it is okay to completely screw something up, fall down, and make a mess of things as that is often our path towards learning.

We need to celebrate mistakes, failures, and terrible days. 

Chaos brings change and learning in our lives. We need to teach our kids that nothing comes to those who are comfortable and not challenged.

I have to say that this is tough stuff for us, as parents.

Living in the information overload age, particularly with such a huge focus on what parents are doing or not doing, it is hard not to feel that we need to do so much for our kids.

We need to praise them in a certain way, otherwise they will be messed up for life. We need to feed them all the right foods or they will be messed up for life.

And the list just goes on and on.

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We, as parents, hold so much power, which is why parenting feels so relentless for us, leading them to struggle when it comes to letting go and letting their kids live their own lives.

We are overdoing it as parents.

Unfortunately, while I don’t believe in being super passive and "laissez-faire" as parents, I do think we are overdoing it.

And while we overdo it, we communicate the hidden fears and anxiety that underlies our tendency to do everything for our kids.

What we end up telling our kids is that we don’t think they can do it themselves. We don’t think they are going to be okay. We are worried about them and if they can handle this world of ours.

Sometimes, we even expect them to prove themselves before we give them responsibilities. We want our kids to show us they can pay rent on time, do their laundry, and eat balanced meals before they can move out.

Interestingly, many of them probably need to move out and see what it is like to make those mistakes and not do any of that, so that they can figure out just how important those parts of life are.

Many of us learn as we live, rather than learn before we live.

Our teens are no different. But many are lacking confidence in themselves that they can figure things out, which is, sadly, leading them to be more anxious, stressed, sad, and honestly terrified of being adults.

When you're learning how to parent teenagers, it's important for you, as the parent, to help them release some of their own fear.

We need to accept that we just can’t protect our kids from the world or from themselves and their mistakes.

They are going to screw up, get hurt, fall down, and make mistakes. Some of them will be big.

The sooner we let them start this process of messing up, the odds are better that their mistakes will be manageable and they will learn some resilience along the way.

This will help them when the mistakes are bigger and the risks become riskier. If we have experience picking ourselves up and repairing mistakes from our childhood, we will be better suited to do this when we need to as adults, too.

We are raising independent humans that are their own people. Our jobs are really to love them, try to understand them, and encourage them to seek out the life they want.

They are a story waiting to unfold, not a blank canvas that we get to paint.

RELATED: 6 Pieces of Parenting Advice Experts Wish You'd Stop Ignoring About Your Teen

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Erica Wollerman is a licensed clinical psychologist who has held a passion towards helping people since beginning her career in psychology in 2006. If you would like to read more about her work, check out Thrive Therapy Studio.

This article was originally published at Thrive Therapy Studio. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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