As children get older, their sources of stress increase. Teens are more likely than young children to be stressed by events or situations outside the home. Studies show that for younger kids, school-related activities remain their top stressor. For example, a 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that stress was extremely common among teenagers.
Additionally, teens often feel pulled between their family of origin and peer groups. This can lead to a lot of stress as teenagers navigate between the two. Peers may help buffer some pressure but can also trigger the need for approval or acceptance. Therefore, your teen must surround themselves with healthy friends. As a parent, you can provide crucial support to help your child navigate life challenges.
Here are five ways you can help:
#1. Recognize the Signs of Stress
When it comes to recognizing stress in teenagers, there are a number of key indicators that can give us a sense of whether or not a teen is struggling.
Spending more time with and confiding in peers is normal for growing up. However, when teens start to avoid their parents or abandon their long-time friendships in favor of new peer groups, this may be an indication that they are experiencing significant stress.
Another sign can be seen in teens who express excessive hostility toward their family members, particularly when there has been no long-standing conflict. Negative changes in behavior can also indicate stress, such as when a once generally well-behaved teen starts breaking curfew or skipping school on a regular basis.
#2. Listen to Your Teen
When talking to teens about stress, it is essential to practice active listening and reflection. It helps to remember that adolescents may not be familiar with stress or its meaning. Teens may express feelings of distress in other ways, such as saying that they are worried, confused, annoyed, or angry. Additionally, children and teens may also verbally express stress through negative self-talk, such as saying things like, “No one likes me” or “I’m stupid.”
If you’re talking to a teen who seems to be struggling, it’s vital to acknowledge that their difficulties are real. The key is not to deny what they are going through and how it makes them feel. Instead, have them give you the facts of the hard place they are in and, in response, show them that you understand and empathize with their situation.
Compassion and understanding can be incredibly helpful for teens who feel like nobody understands what they’re going through. It will also allow your teen to trust you and speak more openly about what is bothering them.
#3. Name the Emotions
One way to approach the topic of stress with your teen is to help them first identify how they are feeling in response to the stressor. They might say, “I’m feeling anxious right now,” or “I feel stressed and nervous.” This is the “name it to tame it” technique; research shows that we can better integrate emotions when we label our emotions.
Once they have labeled their emotions, you can help them brainstorm ways to cope with their stress. This might include:
- Deep breathing
- Talking to a trusted friend or family member
It is critical to provide support and encouragement while also helping them develop skills for managing stress in a healthy way.
#4. Encourage Physical Activity
Exercising on a regular basis can be a powerful tool for stress management. Exercise provides an opportunity for immediate stress release.
Exercise as a regular practice can help to reduce the overall level of stress in a teen’s life. When you engage in physical activity regularly, your body becomes more efficient at managing stress. As a result, your teen may feel calmer and more able to cope with difficult situations. This occurs because regular exercise helps us produce endorphins which support a positive mood and feeling good.
#5. Model Healthy Coping Skills
One of the best things parents can do to help their teens manage stress is to show them healthy coping skills in action. Be honest with your child. Acknowledge what you are going through and talk about how you are handling it.
Some activities that can be helpful in this regard include:
- Engaging in physical exercise
- Practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques
- Spending time with loved ones
- Spending time in nature
- Seeking professional support when needed
By modeling safe and healthy ways to cope with difficult experiences, we can help our teens build the resilience to navigate life’s challenges more effectively. It will also help them develop the confidence and motivation to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
At Clearfork Academy, we understand that you play an essential role in helping your teen manage stress. We provide group therapy to allow you and your teen to talk openly about stress without judgment or recrimination. We provide this setting because listening to what your teen says is crucial in establishing trust. Talking about stress can also help you and your teen develop a shared understanding of the problem and brainstorm solutions. We also provide programs that implement reflection and physical exercise as tools to help teens reduce stress. Following initial treatment, such activities can also serve as a bonding activity for you and your child. When you work with your teen, you both work together to manage the stress in their life. For more information on how to help your teen with stress, call Clearfork Academy today at (888) 966-8604.