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  • Writer's pictureLiz Morrison, LCSW

Helping Your Child Learn How to Deal With the Stress of the Unknown

Teens dealing with school stress

As your kids enter middle and high school, there are a lot of unknowns. What classes will they take? What grades will they get? Who will they take to the prom? Who will they sit with at lunch? What college will they get into? What do they want to be when they grow up?

Pre-teens and teens must learn how to deal with the anxiety of the unknown. This is scary and, for parents, challenging to navigate. You want your child to have a great experience growing up. It’s difficult to watch them struggle and manage coping with change and uncertainty during a time of life that’s already hard enough.

Your child will look to you to learn how to handle the stress of the unknown. Counseling is a great option to help children with uncertainty anxiety. But there are other ways to help your child manage this issue.

In our four-blog series about dealing with the unknown, we’ve returned to give you and your child a few tips and tricks to help you both figure out how to deal with the stress of the unknown.

Coping With Change and Uncertainty

One thing that is certain is that nothing is certain. On top of the normal stressors and anxieties of being a pre-teen or teenager, there are circumstances that are out of your child’s control that will cause them distress.

There are, however, some coping skills your child can practice to deal with uncertainty anxiety.

Teen working out stress

Opposite action is one coping skill your child can practice when dealing with the unknown. Opposite action a walk or bike ride. Or at least your teen can put the phone down and do another activity.

Encourage your child to challenge the negative thoughts that come up when coping with the unknown. If they accept every negative thought as truth, their anxiety will become too much. But if they learn to say “No, that might not actually be true,” then they can start to take control of their thoughts and deal with uncertainty anxiety.

Have them focus on the things they can control. You can make a list together, or they can make one on their own, of all the things they do know and that they are in control of. It will make them feel less helpless.

Managing the Stress of the Unknown as a Parent

At Liz Morrison Therapy we’re focused on the mental health and well-being of your child. We also know that it’s important for you as a parent to tend to your own mental health and wellness. You can’t help your child who is coping with change and uncertainty if you’re also feeling anxious about dealing with the unknown.

All of us feel anxiety about change, uncertainty, and the unknown. But it’s important that you learn how to manage your own stress. Make sure you’re taking care of your physical health. Eat well, drink lots of water, and exercise regularly. The more you do this, the more you’ll model for your kids how to take care of themselves, which is one way they can feel a sense of agency in an uncertain time.

Counseling for parents of teens with stress

Go to counseling yourself. It’s great that you send your teen to therapy, but it’s equally important that you tend to your own mental health. You can’t fill up someone else’s cup if yours is empty.

Talk to your friends who also have pre-teens and teenagers to find out how they’re managing the stress of the unknown as a parent. You’ll find strength in numbers and also might get some ideas of ways to manage the anxiety you and your child feel.

Tips and Tricks For How to Deal With the Anxiety of the Unknown

We’ve put together a list of five tips and tricks to help your child who is dealing with uncertainty anxiety. Hopefully, these will help you figure out how to deal with the stress of the unknown.

1. Practice acceptance rather than resistance – Part of dealing with the unknown is accepting how we feel about the change or uncertainty. Let your child know it’s ok to feel their feelings. They might be scared, anxious, upset, or sad. Learning to accept those feelings is important when coping with change and uncertainty.

2. Find things that are comforting – Encourage your children to spend time with their friends, family, and pets. Do things outside, let them watch movies they like, and find other activities that make them feel good. As a family, try things together that include having fun and playing.

Doing things that are comforting doesn’t necessarily mean pigging out on junk food or going on a shopping spree. It does mean healthy moderation. For example, make your teen’s favorite dinner, or let them have sleep-overs with their friends, or be there for them when they need you the most. Sometimes a hug goes a long way.

3. Think of the best-case scenarios rather than the worst. Help your child look for the silver lining. Think about how to make the best of the situation. If something feels scary, name it and then think of ways that things could go right rather than all the ways that things could go wrong. This will help your child learn how to deal with the anxiety of the unknown.

4. Do check-ins with their body and breath. Have your child pay attention to how they feel physically because that is connected to how they feel emotionally and how the nervous system is processing the uncertainty. If they feel anxious, stressed, or worried while coping with change and uncertainty, it’s important to regulate their nervous systems. Practice body scans and deep breathing exercises.

5. Encourage your child to do things for others. Have your teen volunteer for something they care about. This will take the emphasis of their thoughts and energy off themselves and focus it on helping someone else. Doing things for others can really help deal with uncertainty anxiety.

Teens looking for help and support

We know times are hard right now for everyone, but especially for pre-teens and teenagers dealing with the unknown. If you’re looking for support about how to deal with the anxiety of the unknown, we’re here to help. Book a free consult to talk to our professional social workers today.


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