Being a teenager can be overwhelming! There is the constant social pressure to fit in, the heaviness of grades and future plans, potentially juggling a part-time job, dealing with problems with friends or peer group pressure, changing schools, changing bodies, and a slew of other things. But, as a parent, it’s not only possible for you to help your teenager deal with stress. . . it’s also your job!
When children are stressed, it has a substantial influence on both their mental and physical health! So, it’s really important that you recognize the signs and symptoms, and teach your kids effective coping methods that will stay with them throughout their lives.
Recognize the Warning Signs
Stress will present in a variety of ways depending on the individual. The presence of a variety of typical symptoms can suggest that your adolescent is experiencing stress: outbursts of rage or impatience, excessive crying, impulsivity, or mood swings.
Unlike adults, who may be better able to manage and/or mask their emotions, teens will often have outward emotions or withdraw. However, if your teen is withdrawing from people and things that they normally like, this may be an indication of something more serious.
Are they having difficulty sleeping or are they sleeping excessively? Do they appear unduly concerned, or do they appear to be consuming too much or too little? Stress might manifest itself in the form of frequent headaches or stomach aches, as well as a lack of energy or feeling exhausted. Keep an eye on depressive systems and be ready to intervene if you notice your teen expressing any unsafe or uncharacteristic behavior that may reflect depression, anxiety, or another mental concern. Another symptom to keep an eye out for is the use of narcotics or alcoholic beverages.
What You Can Do to Make a Difference
If your teen is experiencing high stress, here are some ways you can help them cope:
- Spend more one-on-one time with them – Make an effort to spend some one-on-one time with your teen at least once a week, if possible. Chances are, they may not be into it. . . but, if you can find a way to get them on board, it will bring you closer together. If they keep denying you, don’t give up! It’s the effort that counts (and hopefully they’ll change their mind eventually!).
- Encourage expression – Encourage your adolescent to express his/her emotions and worries by listening to their concerns and responding to them. (Note: Do not pass judgment or offer counsel/decisions until it has been specifically requested.) By staying open and providing a space for them to ‘vent’, they will be more likely to share. However, if your teen is completely closed off, another route is to pursue local teenage counseling services.
- Show by example – If you can demonstrate to your teenager how to manage with stress in a positive manner, you will serve as a positive role model for them. While this is often easier said than done, you can open lines of communication with your child and help them understand good and bad ways to handle conflict/challenge.
- Encourage physical activity and healthy eating habits – No matter how old you are, exercise is a terrific way to relieve stress and stay healthy. Figure out what types of exercise your teen will love (and consider doing it together!). It’s also a good idea to fill your cabinets with healthy snacks and alternatives so that you can naturally promote healthy habits at home.
- Keep an eye on their sleep — It’s true, teenagers require more sleep than adults. The recommended amount of sleep per night is at least eight hours of unbroken sleep. If you find that your teen is struggling in this area, try to help them create or modify their schedule (school and extracurriculars) so that sleep becomes a priority. You may also want to create boundaries around tech use, while keeping reason and communication at the forefront so that your teen respects and feels like they are making a mutual decision with you, rather than having to accept another rule.
Stress is something that each and every one of us will face; however, teens often have a more challenging time as their bodies are changing and their minds are still developing them into the people they’re meant to be. Thus, as a parent, providing a path, a support system, and unconditional love can help them realize they’re okay (no matter how crazy life gets).