Helping your Teenager to Cope with Anxiety
The underestimated healing power of singing
As parents, we feel responsible for ensuring that our children grow up in a safe environment and leave home as mature balanced adults ready for the world. We want them to feel well, safe, confident, joyful and to be successful, however, during adolescence, our children don't seem to be any of the above!
We often feel guilty and think it’s our fault. We wonder if we could be doing more for them and think we can solve their problems.
Whenever I tried to help my teenage daughter cope with what was going on in her life, it seemed to backfire and led to heated arguments. It felt so difficult to connect sometimes and truly understand what was going on.
Looking back I feel that I, like many parents, had my own life issues and dramas to deal with and it was a bit like the blind leading the blind! The everyday challenges and unresolved childhood issues triggered many reactions and it was stressful and overwhelming to realise that my children were anxious and dealing with that anxiety in very unhealthy ways. It’s no wonder anxiety gets amplified in family homes.
Helping your teenager to cope with anxiety is only possible if we are willing to address the anxiety that we feel as parents.
This blog is for parents and teenagers alike. I'm going to focus on how we can use our own voices to reconnect back to a space of harmony and stillness within ourselves where anxiety can't get a firm grip and is actually exposed as a distraction to our true expression. Then we can express ourselves in an enriching and caring way rather than reacting to emotional turmoil.
Singing is a great way to quiet the mind and feel more confident about your expression
Our voices can be very healing on a vibrational level. Sound vibrates within us and the intention of how we use our voices has a lot to do with whether that vibration is healing or harming. Speaking at home in the whirlwind of frustration and anger causes anxiety whereas speaking lovingly supports everyone to feel less anxious.
Holistic singing is a great way to support yourself and your child because it isn't solely focused on performance and bettering the voice, but also encompasses self-care and the vibrational quality of the voice and body instrument. Breaking into song around the house like a family Disney musical isn't required, but if your teenager is open to learning how to use their own voice so they can not only sing and enjoy their favourite songs, but also feel confident about how they express themselves, it will be a great practice and will build a fitness in consistency in presence and focus. Reconnecting to the whole body instrument quiets the mind and gives confidence in the way we express ourselves.
The anxious body and mind and how the voice helps
Disclaimer: This is a complementary modality and it shouldn’t be construed as a cure for anxiety! If your child suffers from anxiety, you should seek professional help from your health provider.
There are some physicians who say that anxiety is an illness and that it should be treated with medication. There are others who strongly disagree. Whatever you feel about this, singing can be an effective, drug-free way to quiet the anxious mind. We are all able to manage stress using our voices, as long as we remain present and connected with our whole body instrument while we do so. Holistic singing increases self-awareness, so it is easier to notice when your body and mind are becoming tense and therefore, we are able to act before things escalate to a point where nothing seems to help. The reactions to the challenges that life presents us with or that we feel ill equipped to deal with, aren't going to go away, but the way we deal with them can be totally different depending on how we are in ourselves in any given moment. It is imperative that we become more self-aware and observe the triggers closely.
But my child doesn't want to sing - how can I encourage him or her to try something more holistic?
If you doubt that you could even suggest singing to your child, perhaps their perception of what singing is could be explored…
Maybe your teenager might be interested in learning to use their voice to feel more confident when speaking in front of their peers, to learn techniques that help them to reconnect more to their own bodies so they have a coping mechanism when their heads are giving them grief, or to feel more secure in themselves and realise their own power and inner strength. Maybe they may learn a thing or two about how and why their voice matters in a world that can feel so hostile sometimes.
In my 20+ years experience as a vocal coach, I have given 100’s of classes to teenagers and I’ve witnessed how it has helped them to feel more confident, settled and empowered within themselves.
Firstly it teaches them how to breathe properly, how to bring their voices from deep within themselves and how to get more power from their voice so they can be heard. Music has often been used to support the anxious mind, but reconnection to the voice, and therefore the body, is a further dimension to the healing qualities of the voice that will not only help with anxiety, but give your teen the confidence they need to be successful in their studies, interactions with others and the decisions they need to be responsible for.
But what if they don't want to know?
Even though we may feel that this would help our child, there is no guarantee that they will want to try it. If there is resistance, you can mention it, or perhaps learn some exercises yourself so you can offer it when it may be useful. They may decide to try it one day when they are ready.
As I mentioned before, a lot of anxiety that kids feel is because we, as parents, feel anxious. When you make the decision to be more self-caring in this respect, your child is more likely to follow suit.
Advice can feel imposing and it can turn others off, but there are some practical ways that you can support them (and yourself) through the rigours of day to day life and the occasional piques of pressure that can beset the whole family and we will look at the following:
How learning to sing holistically helps your teen cope with anxiety (and practical ways to support them)
How to support your child to be consistent
My own story as a parent of an anxious teen - you're not alone
HOW LEARNING TO SING HOLISTICALLY HELPS YOUR TEEN COPE WITH ANXIETY (and some practical ways to support them)
There are many great benefits from learning to sing. When it comes to anxiety, learning to breathe from the diaphragm is very helpful. This, as well as good posture, is a way to reconnect to the body and release any tension as well as helping you to stay more present and focused. But learning to sing is fun too and there is a lot of satisfaction in hearing how your voice is becoming more powerful and how you are developing more range and agility -it gives you more confidence to speak too.
So we could say that learning to sing holistically helps your teen cope with anxiety by giving them the tools to reconnect to their breath, their body and their own powerful voice so they are able to manage overwhelm and anxious thoughts that invade their head space more easily. These are important go-to's for any situation that could warrant anxiety such as speaking in groups, presenting themselves, attending interviews and socialising.
How you can help:
Ask your child if they would like support in managing their anxiety levels - getting their permission first is crucial and find a vocal coach (a holistic approach is perfect for managing anxiety).
Be part of the process! You can learn together and it’s a lovely way to connect more. The fact that you’re committing to this too will encourage your child.
Some practical exercises:
Place your hands on your belly with your fingertips touching. Draw in a gentle breath that expands the belly, ribcage and spine so that the fingertips separate - rather like inflating a balloon. Be sure not to overstretch as it creates more tension - you just want to feel that the air is being breathed in gently and deeply.
Now, as if you are holding the neck of the balloon, let the air out slowly and gently with a Tssss sound through the mouth.
Now repeat this again paying attention to the quality of the breath - you want to make the breath as gentle and tender towards yourself as possible - as if you were giving yourself an internal hug.
Give it another go and on the out-breath bring a vowel sound (like ah) from the balloon (your diaphragm - stomach area). Feel the vibration of the sound and make sure it has that tender quality as you release it. Repeat about three times - how does your body feel? Did you feel the vibration of sound anywhere in your body? Where?
The important part of this exercise or any breathing/singing exercise is to make sure you don’t tense up as you breathe in AND to breathe gently. Closing your eyes and feeling your body as you do the exercise is recommended to truly reconnect to yourself.
HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR TEEN TO BE CONSISTENT
By being consistent yourself and creating routines and rhythms of practice that create settlement. It will feel safe and settling for others who live with you. Lead by example and create routines that enable the space to consider wellbeing, self-care and self-love too.
Here are some ideas:
Make some space in the day to go for a walk - can you go together?
Make a point of preparing breakfast with gentle movements - even if you’re in a hurry. Be present as you prepare the food, open cupboard doors, or wash up. Observe and listen - be conscious of how you speak - do these routines flow or is there always something that seems to upset the apple cart? Be discerning of what it is that is creating harmony and what creates disruption. It’s important not to react but just to observe and if there is anything you feel you can change about the daily rhythms, try it out. When there is flow and harmony in the daily routines, your kids will feel more at ease. If there are rushes (there always are haha), as long as you are aware, it won’t matter if you have the odd mad dash - in fact the mad dashes will feel so out of place, you’ll want to avoid them all the more with new, gentler rhythms.
Try doing the vocal exercises together if your child allows that - if they don’t, and you hear them practicing, try not to interfere with any sign that you are pleased - I found that any comment was received as interfering, but when my daughter was in a good mood, I was able to suggest we do it together and we had fun.
Routine creates a framework that helps things to flow - the more flow, the less sticking points that give rise to anxiety such as procrastination, rushing, checking out on games/the phone etc.
If your teen is open to the Gorgeous Hearts Holistic Vocal Coaching methods and is learning to sing or to master their own voice, I will create practice plans and follow up regularly for accountability but the main thing is to provide the space without expecting a certain outcome. You are not responsible for your child's choices, you can only offer your support.
MY OWN STORY AS A PARENT OF AN ANXIOUS TEEN
Sometimes it’s good to know that you’re not alone, that other parents have similar issues and that if your child does suffer from anxiety, there are activities that can support them.
If your child needs medication or has been diagnosed with ADHD or any other mental health issue, it’s super important to get the professional help that they need. Everything I share here is complementary - I am not a doctor and in no way am I offering a cure for anxiety.
“I remember vividly walking downstairs, reaching for my coat, picking up the car keys and then stopping in my tracks - feeling the dread in the pit of my stomach as my daughter called out in that dark desperate voice I knew so well. The voice that meant she was having a ‘bad day’ and there would be no getting her to school today or getting myself to the office.
A phone call to the work to explain the situation again (already feeling guilty) and I went to sit with her for however long she needed. Most days that would be enough. Today it wasn’t. She could not stop crying and her fears could not be articulated. I knew we needed something, but we had had such a frustrating time with the Doctor. I wanted to help so badly and in that moment, the only thing that came to mind was to start singing gently - it took her by surprise, but I closed my eyes and continued - I held her hand. I asked her to breathe gently and we hummed gently together - I asked her if she could feel the vibrations inside her body - she could, she felt a little better - this was the start. She often sang to her favourite music in her room. It always seemed to make her happy. If she was very anxious she just couldn’t find a way to sing at all but because she knew it worked, she would sing when she felt a little better and this helped her confidence to grow - she felt like she had a support system that she could control in her own body.
At first I found it difficult to understand these acute periods of anxiety and depression that invaded her for no apparent reason , but I knew that she needed me to remain still, listen, hold her in a space of love with no judgement - to understand - a difficult ask sometimes for a busy, full-time working mum who was always trying to work it all out and solve things.
I reacted sometimes because I wasn’t in a good place myself. I had anxiety biting at my ankles too. It made it impossible for any love or connection to exist when this was so. Reaction is never the way to go with this.
All she really needed was to feel the joy of reconnecting to herself and the settlement within her. All I had to do was to support her by being responsible in how I was living myself (how I moved and expressed myself at home) Allowing her space to be - whether that was stuck in anxiety or not was always the best choice.
Anxiety never misses an opportunity to attack - it still comes her way, but she knows how to get herself back to the harmony. She has found her strength and once that is discovered, it can never be undiscovered.
What is holistic vocal coaching?
Holistic vocal coaching encompasses techniques that help you to enjoy more range and power in your voice, but also involves your WHOLE body instrument This means that is quite a meditative practice too which improves focus and helps to settle fluctuating mood swings and reactions. It is also holistic in the sense that it is not aimed at achieving just one specific goal, i.e. to develop or perfect a singing voice with the aim of performing professionally. Instead, it focuses on how we express ourselves in all areas of life, our studies, our work, and our relationships. Holistic vocal coaching is kind of like singing classes and life coaching combined.
Holistic vocal coaching also has a self-care element. We cannot expect an untuned, abandoned piano to sound harmonious, so how can we imagine that our body instrument is any different? Holistic vocal coaching takes into consideration how your voice and your whole body instrument needs to be cared for. And finally, there’s energy to consider - how your voice can heal or harm and how that adds another dimension to the integrity and energetic impact of your own expression and how it affects your environment and the people around you.
How about you?
Are you a parent struggling with a teen who is anxious?
Is this causing you anxiety too and creating disharmony in your home?
Please leave a comment below and let me know if this blog resonated with you - I love to hear from you.
If you would like to know more, sign up below and choose from three Holistic Vocal Coaching video courses that will help you to practice, discover your authentic voice and manage anxiety. Click below for free access!