How to Help Your Teenager Overcome an Existential Crisis

When your teenager has to overcome an existential crisis, they'll need your understanding, love, and support. Find out how you can help them.
How to Help Your Teenager Overcome an Existential Crisis

Last update: 26 March, 2022

Does your child feel listless, anxious, or disoriented? Do they ask questions about life and death, who they are, or where their life is going? Don’t worry, it’s something that’s completely normal and typical of the stage they’re going through. If you look back, it’s likely that in your youth, you also experienced a phase in which nothing seemed to make sense. Overcoming an existential crisis during adolescence isn’t easy, and it requires, above all, the understanding and support of parents in order to move forward.

Every teenager is unique. Like any other person, each of them has their own personality, which can be similar or very different from yours.

A teenage boy sitting on bleachers, looking anxious.

Those young people who have a greater capacity for abstraction and a more pensive temperament will be more likely to have this sort of experience. If you share these traits with your child, it’ll be easier for you to understand them. But even if this isn’t the case, your work will be essential at this time.

What is an existential crisis?

Behind this term, which may sound so complex and overwhelming, hides the human need to give meaning to our existence. All of us, to a greater or lesser degree, have the desire to give our lives some logic and reason. Only for some, it’s easier to get past this type of deep thinking. In general, an existential crisis presents itself in several ways:

  • The adolescent constantly feels apathetic or bored. There’s a general loss of interest and activities that were previously pleasurable now seem meaningless.
  • They feel alone, isolated, and emotionally disconnected from the people around them. Even those they love and by whom they’re loved.
  • An intense fear appears regarding the future, which seems dark and uncertain. Making decisions becomes an impossible task, as nothing seems to make sense; there’s no direction.
  • They experience a feeling of strangeness with themselves, they have the impression that they’re not the same person they used to be. In addition, despite the fact that everything in their life is going well, sadness, fear, and dissatisfaction are constant.
  • Existential questions arise, such as where they come from, what happens after death, or what the purpose of life is. Issues that had never bothered them before now take up a great deal of their time and mental energy, tormenting them.

Why do existential crises occur during adolescence?

It’s highly unlikely for small children to experience existential crises, but besides that time period, people of any age can experience one. However, for various reasons, it’s more common for these to occur during adolescence. First of all, because the adolescent is looking for or building their own identity. This awakens a need for answers, certainties, and knowledge that the young person never even thought about before.

Second, adolescence is a time of drastic changes and important decisions. Experiences at these ages are felt with great intensity and young people are asked to begin to take charge of their future. All these stressful situations that exceed their resources can lead them to have an existential crisis.

How to help your teenager overcome an existential crisis?

An existential crisis doesn’t necessarily have to be negative. It’s part of the growth process and this period of introspection can help the adolescent to mature on an emotional level. However, if they’re alone without support from their most significant adults, the consequences can be serious. They can develop negative thought patterns that will lead to permanent unhappiness.

 A crying teenage girl showing something to her mother.

Therefore, as a mother, your main function will be one of accompaniment and support. You don’t have the answers they’re looking for either, because no one knows them for sure; however, your presence, understanding, and unconditional love will help lighten their load.

At the same time, it’s important that you invite them to adopt a more positive perspective based on accepting uncertainty and building from there. Remind them that, even if they’re unsure about everything, they have the possibility to choose their life and enjoy it.

And, above all, assure them that, like everything else, this sense of anxiety will pass. For teenagers, everything is intense, an angry sea that never seems to calm down. Work hard to be their anchor until the storm passes, because it will.

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