The University Network

Helping Teens Overcome Heightened Anxiety

The teenage years are a transformative time in every person’s life. Despite the typical struggles faced by teenagers, these years are meant to be a period full of exploration and growth. Traditionally, it’s a time when they begin to form the passions and ideas that will shape them throughout their personal and professional lives. 

In the year 2020, however, mental health is getting in the way. The majority of teens — 62 percent — said that their anxiety now “keeps them from being the person they want to be,” according to a new survey funded by the Allstate Foundation. 

Teenagers are paying attention to the world around them. They’ve experienced, either first-hand or on the news, the struggles the United States is facing, most notably, in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic and current race relations. As a result, many are overwhelmed with feelings of fear and uncertainty. 

Overall, 73 percent of the 1,000 teens surveyed said that they feel more worried about the future now than they did six months ago. And whether their school will be administered in person or online, teens are “uncertain, nervous and stressed” about returning. 

“Teens are paying attention. They are speaking clearly about their needs, and we must answer their call,” Stacy Sharpe, senior vice president at Allstate, said in a news release

Prioritizing social and emotional learning

So, in these trying, uncertain times, the Allstate Foundation highlights the importance of social and emotional learning. 

“More than two decades of research shows that SEL, or social and emotional learning, helps young people build important life skills like empathy, stress-management and resilience so that they can thrive in an ever-changing world,” according to the brief summarizing the survey.

Working with its nonprofit and company partners, the foundation has compiled a list of free resources to help teenagers develop the life skills to “handle anything that is thrown their way.”

One free resource available is the Inner Explorer family app, a free mindfulness and mediation app that can teach teenagers and their family members to curb their anxieties, stressors and fears by living in the moment. 

And for teens and parents who are anxious and confused about the state of race relations in the country, the foundation suggests they check out the resources provided by its partner The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which recently hosted a webinar “Owning Your Power To Raise Kids Who Challenge Racism” and provided a summary sheet with tips that can help individuals increase their understanding of race and racism in the United States.

To help teens explore and reflect on their emotions, the foundation points to a resource guide to journaling during the coronavirus pandemic, which is something that less than half of the teens surveyed said they currently do. While the guide was created by the foundation’s partner Facing History and Ourselves as a tool for educators, it can also serve a resource for parents to encourage journaling at home, according to the foundation. 

Independently, the foundation has also created a guide to help parents instill skills like resilience and empathy in their teenage children. 

“As a long-time champion of youth empowerment, we know skills such as empathy, stress-management and resilience are critical to young peoples’ success in life,” Sharpe said in the release. “That’s why we partner with leading nonprofits to give families access to important social and emotional learning resources to prepare our youth – and the adults who support them – for the future.”