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Many parents have asked WHY we are seeing such a surge in anxiety among teenagers in recent years. While it would be convenient to blame it all on COVID-19, the truth is that the signs were there long before the pandemic hit.
The root cause, in my opinion, boils down to one main thing:
A lack of connection.
In this article, we will explore the six reasons why real connection is lacking in today's world and how this is impacting our teenagers.
Tech Doom: Numbing Out to Avoid Discomfort
"Scrolling the socials, binge-watching Netflix, or complete immersion in the latest gaming shootout is a perfect way to avoid feeling anything uncomfortable."
Teenagers have been conditioned to seek solace in their screens, which numbs them to their own emotions and prevents them from building inner and outer resilience.
This constant distraction from their own feelings can have detrimental effects on their physical & mental well-being.
Social Media: The Illusion of Connection
"Let's look at how much better everyone else is doing, how much better everybody else is looking, how much better everybody else is being."
Despite the promise of deeper connection, social media often leaves us feeling disconnected, inferior, or even rejected.
Teenagers should not measure their self-worth by the number of likes, the most flattering filter, or the amount of friend requests they receive. And unfortunately, social media can become a breeding ground for bullying rather than bonding.
Pressure: The Fear of Failure
"A major underlying fear for a teen is going to be failure."
In a culture that rewards external achievements like academic success and material wealth, teenagers feel immense pressure to meet these expectations.
This fear of failure takes a toll on their mental health, and many teens choose to avoid school, where they can feel the pressure most intensely.
Presence: The Importance of Connection
"A lot of communication between teen friendships is done electronically, and in-person downtime with friends is often screen-led."
In today's fast-paced world, quality time and genuine connection can be difficult to come by. Family dynamics can be disjointed, and communication between teens and their friends often happens through screens.
However, as heart-centred humans, teenagers still need proper interaction, real listening, and presence from those around them.
Overwhelm: The Constant Switched-On World
"When teens close their bedroom door, that world is still right there with them. It's on their phone, it's through news, it's through media, it's through social media, it's through messaging, chats, text, YouTube, the World Wide Web."
Teenagers live in an online world that never switches off. They have grown to expect and rely on constant stimulation, and they feel lost without it.
This constant exposure to the online world can be overwhelming and contribute to those feelings of anxiety.
Emotional Blocks: Society's Bias Against Emotions
"At some point, some walls went up in our society around how much emotion it was acceptable to express."
Society has inadvertently taught that emotions are bad, uncomfortable, and should be avoided at all costs.
There has been a bias towards favouring academic intelligence over emotional intelligence, and many teens (and adults) have forgotten how to process natural human emotions.
This emotional suppression can have a detrimental impact on both their mental & physical well-being.
So what can parents do to help their anxious teens?
First and foremost, observe. If you notice signs that your teen is not coping, it is essential to remain vigilant, monitor, and take action if necessary.
Taking each factor from above, just explore how these may relate to your own teen. Every teen and family is different but you may want to consider the following:
1. Tech: Assess your teen's dependence on technology and find ways to encourage a more balanced approach. Limit screen time and encourage offline activities.
2. Social Media: Be aware of the social media platforms your teen uses and the content they consume. Set limits and rules around social media usage and discuss the influence it can have on their self-worth.
3. Pressure: Talk to your teen about the pressures they may be feeling and find ways to ease that burden. Encourage a healthy balance between academic, social, and emotional well-being.
4. Presence: Be present physically and emotionally when interacting with your teen. Put away distractions and engage in meaningful conversations. Make any vulnerability they may show a priority.
5. Overwhelm: Help your teen find ways to switch off from the online world. Encourage activities that promote relaxation, such as spending time in nature, playing board games, enjoying food together or engaging in physical activities.
6. Emotional Blocks: Examine your own emotions and how they may be impacting your teen's development. Create a safe space for them to express their emotions and encourage emotional intelligence by modelling this yourself.
Teen anxiety is not a teen’s issue; it is a societal issue. The lack of connection in today's world is taking a toll on the overall well-being of our teens.
As parents, it is our responsibility to prioritise connection – connection with ourselves, connection with our children, and connection with the world around us. By implementing the strategies discussed in this article, we can help alleviate the rising tide of teen anxiety and foster a healthier, more connected future for everyone.
Whatever you do, keep trying, keep loving, keep talking, keep listening, and keep connecting.
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Disclaimer: This article is for informational & educational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice. The use of this information is at the reader's discretion and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a physician, psychotherapist or other qualified professional, diagnosis or treatment.