How To help your Teen cope with Stress
Many adults believe there is no such thing as teenage stress. They think that teens have it easy – no mortgage or bills to pay, or being forced to work at a job they hate because so many lives depend on it. All teenagers have to do is have fun online chatting with their friends, go to school, do their homework play a little sport and hang out with their friends after school, right?
Check out this YouTube video which shows you exactly why teens can claim to outstress adults
Another point in the teen stress camp is the results of a poll
carried out by the social network After School. Thousands of high school students were asked about their stress levels and these were the shocking results:
….nearly 45% said “all the time,” citing relationships and teachers as the primary reasons why. ”
This post is a joint effort between Tren of therapistmarriedtonavy.com and me. Tren shares her expertise with you later in this post.
This post is a guide to inform you about the best ways to help your teen cope with stress.
But first, let’s fill in all the blanks you may have about teenage stress.
WHAT IS STRESS
Imagine this situation…….
Your teen does public speaking and excels at it. Her school has now entered her in an inter-school public speaking competition. She prepares well but in the run-up to the contest, she:
• has trouble eating and sleeping
• is moody and snappy with everyone
• voices fears that she will forget her speech
• is worried that she will let her school down
• regrets being in the competition
• wants to give up public speaking completely
This is what stress is. Read on to get a proper definition of stress.
HOW TO TELL IF YOUR TEEN IS STRESSED
Here’s a short video that gives you the list of tell-tale signs of teenage stress as well as a few coping strategies.
CAUSES OF TEENAGE STRESS
Causes of stress will differ from one teen to another but below are a few common stressors:
– too much homework
– pressure from parents and teachers to excel
– falling short of expectations of parents and teachers
– unrealistic parental expectations about school performance
– poor relationship with parents
– too much time spent training and playing sport
– the dark side of competitive sport
– constant fatigue through lack of sleep
– lack of confidence due to physical changes like acne
– pressure to fit in with the cool kids and not being accepted
I am so pleased to have Trenye, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, to do the next part of this post. Her passion lies in the development of children, families, and the reintegration of positive and healthy lifestyles for families.
Over to Trenye
STRESS MANAGEMENT TIPS
You’ve already watched the YouTube video which drove home the point that adults are not the only ones affected by stress. Teens also have stress-related issues.
In a medical or biological context stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure).
As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, I have had the opportunity to provide services to children, ranging from PreK to young adults. Many teens have identified stress as the cause of neglectful behaviors and negative thoughts.
HOW TEENAGERS REACT TO STRESS
As pointed out above, there is no set formula for how your teen will react to stress.
The natural instinct is to fight, flight or freeze when in a stressful situation:
• Fight is when your teen may become physical – screaming, slamming doors or crying are a few examples.
- • Flight is where your teen completely removes himself from the source of the stress so he never deals with the stressor or learns how to cope with them
- • Freeze is where your teen freezes and is unable to respond emotionally. He lets the situation slide in the hope that it will go away.
HOW TO HELP YOUR TEEN MANAGE HIS STRESS
- This next YouTube video shows Temple University’s shows most recent research into teenage stress and even gives one amazing stress management tip.
- Watch it now
- Your job as a parent is to :
- • recognize that your teen is stressed
- • understand the non-coping mechanisms he may be showing
- • take the necessary steps to help your teen overcome the stressful situation
PROBLEMS WITH PARENTING A STRESSED TEEN
Parenting teens who suffer from unexplained stress can be difficult.
Often parents are unaware of the symptoms of stress, effective coping skills, or when to seek help for their teen’s unresolved stress.
- While the parent is dealing with the most strategic way to overcome the teen’s stress, he could still be in fight, flight or freeze mode.
- Often, these three non-coping defense mechanisms add more stress to the situation. To figure out how to best help your stressed-out teen, you need to examine how the brain works to solve problems.
THE TEEN BRAIN
There are two hemispheres of the brain – the left and the right. The left side of the brain is logical (more literal ) while the right brain is emotional (nonverbal). Together both hemispheres work to solve a problem.
However, if one side is working harder than the other, a teen may either think of the stressful event in a linear way (black or white/all or nothing) or be overwhelmed emotionally (crying, lashing out). Not all teens will experience the same symptoms of stress
TIPS TO HELP YOUR TEEN COPE WITH STRESS
Parents are the first teachers. It is your responsibility to equip your teen with the skills necessary to become productive members of society.
Here are a few helpful tips to help your teen with stress management:
1. Identify the signs of stress
Often teens (especially younger teens) may not have the verbal skills to express their feelings. Therefore, physical cues are important.
Look out for irritability, lack of sleep, excessive worry, change in eating habits, sleeping too much, isolation, sleeping difficulty, nightmares and a change in weight.
Teens who have prolonged stress may also take part in risky behaviors to help alleviate their stress (so they think).
Check out The American Institute of Stress which has identified 50 Commons Signs and Symptoms of Stress to help you identify the signs of stress in your teenager.
Effective communication with your teen will increase the chances of your teen discussing feeling overwhelmed or share their frustrations with you.
Life becomes busy and you may neglect special time to connect with your teen neglect. Make time for one on one time and actively listen to your teen to find out what’s going on in his life.
Get more help in this post on strategies for communicating with your teen.
3.Learn, practice and implement healthy coping skills
Coping skills are strategies that allow us to handle stressful situations and help manage difficult emotions.
3.1 Physical activity such as teen sport, walking, or at home activities is a great way for your teen to relieve stress.
3.2 Set a positive example for your teen. Find an opportunity in your schedule to take an exercise class together. If that is not possible a yoga or any fitness work out to a YouTube video at home will show your teen how to unwind with exercise at the end of the day.
3.3 Create an evening routine for your family. As noted earlier, stress has an impact on sleep. Try to limit screen time (cell phone, tablets, tv, etc.) and stimulating activities prior to bed. This will ensure quality sleep and so reduce the stress that is caused by lack of sleep. Being well rested allows your teen to function optimally at school.
3.4 Improve your teen’s diet by including more whole grain carbs, fresh fruit, and veggies. A healthy diet provides him with the energy he needs to see him through a long day at school and sport. Cutting down on sugar is also likely to improve his overall well being.
3.5 Make the family and home a safe place for your teen. Work to build a relationship based on trust and understanding with your teen. He must be secure in the knowledge that he can seek your help and advice without the fear of being judged. This alone will cut his stress as he will always be able to talk through his fears, anxieties, and insecurities with you.
3.6 Encourage stress relief activities such as meditation, crafting, and journaling.
When to seek professional help
If none of these strategies fail and you are still concerned about your teen’s mental health, please seek assistance from a licensed professional. You can find mental health treatment based on your location at this website.
This quote is great advice to pass on to your teen:
In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy,
to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.
What strategies do you use to help manage your teen’s stress?
Share your tips in the comments below.
Trenye is the blogger behind therapistmarriedtonavy.com. Her husband serves as a Chief in the U.S. Navy, and together they have five daughters and a pit bull. Her intention with her blog is to promote positive social change through a non-judgemental lens. She focuses on military life, adversity, resiliency, trauma, parenting, relationships, self-love and anything that enhances your skills to become a better you.