Today I had the opportunity to speak with several teens and college age adults. Each one expressed nervous anxiety about life. Many factors contribute to anxiety in people this age. After all, they are navigating a major life transition. Everything in their life is changing. Teens and young adults search to discover their place in an adult world. Decisions are becoming more life altering and consequences more serious. Knowledge previously practiced on paper now has to be applied in practical, real-life circumstances. New friends come into their life and old friends often drift away. These teens and college age adults desire greater independence but still find themselves depending on parents. All of this can create a great deal of nervous anxiety.
Parents can help reduce nervousness in their teen or young adult…or they can add anxiety to their child’s already growing case of nerves. In case you would like to increase your child’s anxiety as they navigate their transition into adult, here are five ways to help.
· Always expect more than your child has achieved. If they get an 89% on a test, tell them they should have worked harder to get a 91%. When they do some chore around the house, complain about the part left undone. Never let them think they have done “good enough.” After all, you need them to pursue being the best. It’s a tough world out there.
· Do not offer them any encouragement, thanks, or praise. They do not need to receive thanks for doing what is expected of them. They will not receive praise and encouragement when they get out in the real world; so toughen them up now. Instead of offering thanks or encouragement, simply point out the next task that needs finished.
· Oh, along the same lines…never say “I love you;” they may get the wrong idea and think that they have already done enough to “earn your love.”
· Do not trust them to make decisions on their own. Make all their decisions for them. You determine when they will go to bed and when they will get up. You control your house…and that means you control them. Do not give them responsibility; you manage it all. Some might say you are over-controlling, but you have to maintain total control if you want your child to grow up “a bundle of nerves.”
· Keep a close eye on your child at all times. I do not mean to simply watch them—I mean overprotect them. Make sure they never experience any discomfort and never have to struggle. If you see them struggle, step right in there and take care of whatever they might struggle with. Whatever they get involved in, you become involved as well. Be actively involved in leading every activity in which they participate–from scouting to youth group to going out with friends. Never leave your children alone…they need your protection.
There you have it—five simple ways to create nervous anxiety in your children. If, on the other hand, you would rather your children learn to manage stress and become less anxious as they navigate the journey into adulthood, try these ideas:
· Have fun with your child. Take time to play, laugh, and enjoy activities together.
· Allow your child to perform less than perfect; in fact, let them fail at times. Do not rescue them from failing. We all learn great lessons through failures. An important lesson to learn is that we survive in spite of failure; and even more important, we grow through failure. So sit back and enjoy some minor failures. (Click here to see a celebration of “failure.”)
· Offer words of encouragement and thanks whenever possible. This will not weaken your children but strengthen them. Words of encouragement and gratitude let children know they are appreciated and admired. And, by the way, lay on the words of love and affirmation while you’re at it. When a person knows they are loved, they have less need to be anxious.
· Teach your children problem-solving skills. As they learn these skills, let them make age appropriate decisions on their own. Begin to let your late teen make decisions regarding how late they stay up. Talk to them about the wisdom of their decision rather than forcing them to go to bed when you determine. This means giving your child an increasing amount of responsibility as they grow…and, allowing them to suffer the consequences of those decisions. Let them learn from the little decisions and mistakes as they grow so they will be better prepared to handle the big decisions of life.
· Allow your children to experiment and explore. Feed their curiosity. Encourage them to explore. Yes, this can be a bit scary for a parent; but children learn to manage unexpected difficulties and unforeseen problems as they experiment and explore. They gain a sense of pride and personal power as they manage those difficulties. Let your children explore the world in age appropriate ways.