Helping teens with stress
Like adults, teens can get stressed out without knowing its happening. One minute all is well, and then things start to back up. They get behind in homework, projects are due all at once, a team goes to nationals, a family faces a crisis, or romantic partner breaks up with them; there is no end to what can go wrong.
Unlike adults, though, teens may not have experienced this new level of stress and may know how much it affects their behavior. Parents can help identify signs of stress and help teens find ways to cope with it.
Tips for preventing stress in teens:
- Be a role model. Try to remain calm when dealing with stressful situations. When stressed, demonstrate coping strategies. Get enough rest, eat well, and seek support. If you know a particularly stressful event is coming, talk with your teen about how to prepare and avoid getting "stressed out.
- Focus on the process instead of the outcome. How hard a child tries is more important than the grade they receive.
- Help teens monitor activities and "over scheduling". Talk with your teen about their motivations, balancing extracurricular activities, sports, and schoolwork with time for friends, family, and relaxation.
- Help teens identify "stress." Signs of stress include a fast heartbeat, butterflies in the stomach, chest tightness, obsessive thoughts about being ready for things, inability to enjoy restful activities, etc.
- Teach teens ways to relax and cope with stress: taking a bath, exercising, yoga or deep breathing and meditation, listening to or making music, etc
- Remind teens that they are in control of some things in their lives, and encourage them to make decisions and prioritize activities when possible.<
- Encourage teens to talk about what is causing the stress and identify healthy ways of dealing with it.
- Identify perceived "unhealthy" ways of coping with stress, including using alcohol or drugs, ignoring a problem, watching too much TV or playing too many video games, or getting irritable and cranky.