Guest contributor Courtney Harris is a child-centered and teen life coach. She supports teens and tweens in moving from anxiety and overwhelm to self-love and intentional self-expression. She also partners with parents to integrate new skills and improve communication and connection within the family. Courtney Harris Coaching offers 1:1 coaching sessions and Austin-area workshops and events; follow Courtney on Facebook to learn more.
In my nine years in the classroom and one year working with young people and families privately, I have come to hear the terms anxiety, social anxiety, and overwhelm more than I can count. Starting at very young ages, our children are internalizing patterns of overwork, perfectionism, and constant public performance. According to Psychology Today, 7 percent of the population in the United States is estimated to have some form of social anxiety within any given 12-month period.
Many of our children, especially those who identify as introverts, are highly sensitive, or have learning or developmental disabilities, do not feel supported by society. They feel that their way of being is not acceptable according to many social norms. The pressures to perform both inside and outside of the classroom are often too much to handle, particularly when the young people are not affirmed for the patterns and behaviors that are most natural and comfortable to them.
During this past year, I have been working with a 13-year-old who prefers face-to-face communication over social media, which feels isolating to him, given his friends’ heavy technology use. Yet he found it difficult to identify shared interests to relate over in person when he had those opportunities. All the while, he was managing and worrying about his honors courses, feeling exhausted by the workload, managing demands and expectations from his parents, and struggling to ask for help. Under the weight of these pressures from home, school, and social life, this teen was exhausted! He felt robotic, disempowered, and stuck in his life. Every Sunday was a source of anxiety for him, knowing the the cycle of overwhelm was starting anew. After months of watching him living this way, his parents saw that he needed to slow down; they recognized his need to feel secure and grounded and to develop new patterns for being his most authentic self.
If your child is already beginning to fear the pressures of the upcoming school year or is refusing attendance at a summer camp, rest assured that there are pathways to greater ease and peace for your child and your family. I’d love to share some of the big tips and tools that worked for this 13-year-old on his journey, especially when starting a new activity or semester.