* What’s Going on Inside Your Teen’s Head?

By Heather Miller, LCSW, Courier & Press, April 11, 2017 –

If you are the parent of a teen, you have most likely thought, “You’re seriously worried about that?” a few dozen times.

The issues that worry adults are often completely different than the issues that worry teens.  Adults may often be confused about why a teen would be worried about a particular issue and may also wonder how to best give support.

It may be difficult to not trivialize a teen’s worries at times, but validating your child’s emotions is crucial to the adult-teen relationship.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, immaturity of the brain plays a large role in why teens worry.  A study utilizing MRI found that when attempting to distinguish between safety and threat, teens use the part of the brain responsible for basic fear responses.

When given the same scenario, findings indicate that adults utilize a more mature part of the brain responsible for reasoned judgments.  This suggests that teens may be more fearful in general due to their physical inability to adequately distinguish between safety and threat.

What do teens worry about the most? An article found on familyeducation.com notes that teens worry about the following:

  • What others think of them
  • Grades
  • Lack of time
  • Family difficulties
  • The future

Parents and caregivers can help teens get through worrisome situations.  This assistance will strengthen the parent-child relationship and teach the teen coping skills to use independently in the future.

Here are three ideas for supporting your worried teen:

  • Validate that your teen is worried and, without judgment, allow them to tell you what is leading to the worry.
  • Assist your teen in narrowing down the actual issue as well as brainstorming possible solutions.  Allow your teen to think of possible solutions rather than telling them what to do to solve the issue.
  • Remain focused on how your teen is feeling rather than trying to “cheerlead” them out of a worry.  Being positive and supportive is very important; however, comments such as “Oh, it will be just fine – don’t worry,” often feel generic and uncaring.

While some amount of worrying is a normal part of every teen’s experience, excessive worry that interferes with functioning or quality of life may require professional intervention. If you feel your teen is consumed with worry and this is affecting their daily activities, contact the Youth First Social Worker at your child’s school, a guidance counselor, an outpatient therapist, or your teen’s pediatrician to discuss these concerns.

Additionally, if communicating with your teen is difficult, Youth First programs such as Strengthening Families can help develop communication skills for families with children of all ages. Please call 812-421-8336 or visit youthfirstinc.org for more information about Strengthening Families or other Youth First programs.