3 Ways to Free Yourself From Anxiety When Parenting Teens

Parenting teens is hard. Whether you’re dealing with difficult conversations, rebellious behavior, character issues, or roller-coaster emotions, the stress can often be overwhelming. You worry about their mental and spiritual health, their physical safety, their relationships, and their choices. If parenting your teen has your stomach in knots, here are three ways to find freedom from anxiety.

3 Tips to Find Freedom from Anxiety During the Teen Years

1. Choose Faith Over Fear

When one of our daughters was 13, she was extremely drawn by the world. She wanted to dress in the latest trends and follow the coolest celebrities. As she teetered between her current friends and the “popular” group, I worried that she would compromise her standards and character for the sake of being accepted. This quickly spiraled into me envisioning her going wild, walking away from her faith, and making choices that would negatively affect her entire future. As a result, I began to clamp down on her, restricting her social activities and pointing out every little thing she did wrong.

One night as I was praying for her, I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart. He reminded me of a few scenarios in which her values and character were tested, and each time she made the right choice at great personal cost. I realized my fear was causing me to focus only on the potential negative outcomes instead of trusting her to make wise choices. “She needs to know you believe in her,” the Lord whispered. “It’s time to start parenting her out of faith, not fear.”

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul encourages him to live out his faith and calling boldly. “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young,” Paul reminds him, “but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity… Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that others may see your progress” (1 Timothy 4:12, 15).

Paul could have admonished the young teen out of fear that Timothy would follow in his pagan father’s footsteps. Instead, he believed the best and spoke words of faith, encouraging Timothy to live into his calling.

2. Choose Worship Over Worry

Not long ago, one of our teens went through an extremely difficult season with her mental health. It not only affected her, but it also affected our entire family. Sibling dynamics were difficult, communication was challenging, and my husband and I were sincerely concerned for her safety. At times, I felt so overwhelmed with worry I could hardly breathe! I tried to pray but it was hard to find the words, and it only made me feel more anxious.

There was only one thing that helped. When I felt the tidal wave of anxiety coming, I put on my cross-trainers, popped in my air-pods, and headed out for a walk. I created a playlist of worship music entitled “Fight Songs” and kept it on repeat. As I traversed the hills and cul-de-sacs in my neighborhood, I turned my attention to the One who holds all things in His hands.

With tears on my face and my hands lifted to heaven, I walked those streets, declaring God’s goodness, faithfulness, and sovereignty. I’m sure my neighbors thought I was crazy, but I didn’t care. Those moments of worship shifted my perspective and reminded me that I didn’t have to carry that burden alone. The hands that held the universe in place were holding our family and holding my teen. He could be trusted. I needed only to be still and know that He was God (Psalm 46:10) and He would fight the battles for me.

Like Peter, when I took my focus off Jesus and put it on my circumstances, I began to sink into the depths of anxiety and fear. But when my eyes were fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith, I didn’t grow weary or lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3).

Choosing to worship Him instead of worrying about your teen is the only way to experience real peace in the midst of the storm.

3. Choose Surrender Over Control

If nothing else, the teen years are a good reminder to us that we are not in control. As our teens reach adolescence, they begin to separate from us, desiring to make their own decisions and forge their own paths. This quest for independence can be a messy process, especially if we fight against them for control instead of walking alongside them as their coach.

Not long ago, I was talking to a friend whose daughter was struggling with severe anxiety resulting in an eating disorder. As we talked through different strategies, I gently reminded her that none of them would enable her to dictate her daughter’s thoughts or behaviors.

Attempting to control something that is out of our control only leads to more anxiety and frustration. However, when we surrender our desire for control to the One who ultimately has authority over all things, trusting Him to work all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28), we find peace.

We see this principle lived out in the story of the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32). While Scripture doesn’t give us the backstory, based on both sons’ actions throughout the story, we can assume the father spent many years providing boundaries and guidance to his sons while they were growing up.

However, when the younger son asked for his inheritance, they had reached a point where the father knew he could no longer control his son’s decisions. In giving his son what he wanted, the father recognized his own limitations and surrendered to the Lord’s authority, trusting His plan.

There were obviously still boundaries in place—after all, the son came home hoping for a position as a servant, not expecting a place at the dinner table. But the father’s willingness to surrender control (over something he couldn’t actually control anyway) enabled his son to experience his own inadequacy and discover his need for help on his own.

Finding Freedom from Anxiety

Our teens are walking their own faith journeys. They are going to sin, struggle, succeed, and surprise us. When we remember that ultimately God is in control, we can rest in the fact that we don’t need to take too much credit or too much blame. By choosing faith over fear, worship over worry, and surrender over control, we are able to release the burden of responsibility we often feel, freeing ourselves from anxiety so we can walk prayerfully alongside our teens.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

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