School work, frustrations, negative self-talk, body changes, peer pressure, conflict with friends, family and teachers, parents’ divorce, illness, death of a loved one, moving house or cities or countries, changing schools, sport, cultural extra murals, family financial problems…

The list of stressors in a teenager’s life is long. They seem to be bouncing from one crisis to another. Their body is constantly in fight-or-flight mode. Stress hormone levels are high1.

Something has to give. When your teen is feeling overwhelmed by stress they start to withdraw, or they become aggressive, or they start showing signs of anxiety. They may even become physically ill because their body has no nutritional reserves left to support the immune system. They may resort to poor coping skills such as drug or alcohol abuse or impulsive behaviour2.

 

STRESSED OUT TEENAGERS – STRESS OUT PARENTS

The modern lifestyle is full of busyness. There is very little time for our teens to sit back and relax. They seldom have time to just be. Our teenagers are constantly on-the- go and they are under enormous pressure to achieve and be successful3.

Parents are also busy. They are involved in their own lives and crises. It isn’t always easy to notice when their teenager is feeling overwhelmed. Busyness has become the norm.

Parents are the adolescent’s support team. Not only for lifts to school and putting food on the table, but for emotional assistance too4.

Between the ages of twelve and eighteen, children are undergoing many rather drastic changes – physical and mental. They are learning who they are and where they fit in the world. They are prone to moodiness and outbursts of rage5.

 

HOW PARENTS CAN HELP THEIR TEENS MANAGE THEIR STRESS

It is the parents’ job to monitor their teenager’s stress levels and how well or poorly they are coping with the demands in their lives. Has their behaviour changed? Are their thoughts positive or negative? Do they seem to be getting sick more often? How are they feeling6?

Teenagers need to be heard. Even more so when they are battling to keep up and stay positive. Listen to the way they speak. Take note of the type of language they use. Be there to simply lend them an ear so that they can talk about their daily lives6.

Adults don’t always have the best coping skills. But if they learn how to manage their stress in helpful, meaningful ways, they can teach their teenagers to do the same. Children model their behaviour on their parents’ behaviour6.

Most important: Support your teen through the hard times. It always helps to know that they have someone who cares about them in their corner. Help them to get involved in fun activities that give them a sense of purpose and belonging6.

 

10-POINT PLAN TO HELP TEENS CONTROL THEIR STRESS

Parental support is essential to ensure that your teenager gets through adolescence as a confident, happy human being. Part of the support process is to teach your children how to control their stress. This 10-point plan is a useful place to start.

 

#1 – Be mindful of stressors

It can be easier to just put your head down and keep moving forward without giving any thought to how you are feeling. The problem with that is you can end up feeling overwhelmed before you even realise that you were under pressure. Encourage your teen to take a breather and touch base with themselves. It is better to deal with something that is causing stress sooner rather than later7.

#2 – Avoid unnecessary stress

We all know teenagers who seem to love the drama of life. They seem to create their own stress. Teach your teen to pick their battles. Not everything is worth spending energy on.

#3 – Focus on things you can change

Not everything is under our control8. Your high-schooler can’t decide when the geometry test is going to be, or whether they will be picked for the soccer team. They can get out of bed 10 minutes earlier to make it to school on time and they can set aside time to study for their tests.

#4 – Exercise regularly

It might seem like adding exercise to the daily routine is just another stressor. But physical activity will make it that much easier to manage the stress of everyday life. It releases hormones that make us feel good9.

#5 – Enjoy relaxing activities

It is important to take time out to relax. It is not a waste of time. Whether it is yoga, a walk with the dog, a good laugh with friends or doodling in your journal, spending some time doing the things you enjoy will boost your mental health.

#6 – Good nutrition

The basis of good health is good nutrition. Eating a healthy balanced diet that includes a variety of foods gives the body the nutrients it needs to support you physically and mentally. In times of overwhelming stress it can be useful to supplement your diet with nutrients known to support mental health.

#7 – Get a good night’s sleep

Everything seems better after a good sleep. Encourage your teen to go to bed early enough to ensure that they get 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night10.

#8 – Meditation

Meditating on something other than what is bothering you allows your mind to take a rest.

#9 – Talk it out

Encourage your teen to talk about what is getting to them. It helps to feel that the problem is shared. They can talk to you, or their friends, a counsellor or a therapist. Don’t let the problems stew in their minds until they become thunder clouds.

#10 – Get involved

Feeling that you are part of something, that you are worth having around is a great way to boost self esteem and positive feelings. Join a team, get involved at church or volunteer to help others less fortunate.

 

STRESS MANAGEMENT FOR HEALTHY TEENS

In our busy modern world our teenagers are racing from one activity to the next. They have pressures to deal with from school, family and friends. They are facing personal challenges on a daily basis. Teaching them to identify when they are feeling stressed out and how to effectively manage their stress, sets them up for a calmer, more fulfilling life.

REFERENCES

  1. McEwen B. Physiology and Neurobiology of Stress and Adaptation: Central Role of the Brain. Physiological Reviews. 2007;87(3):873-904.
  2. Identifying signs of stress in your children and teens [Internet]. https://www.apa.org. 2021 [cited 24 August 2021]. Available from: https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/children
  3. Nguyen D, Dedding C, Pham T, Bunders J. Perspectives of pupils, parents, and teachers on mental health problems among Vietnamese secondary school pupils. BMC Public Health. 2013;13(1).
  4. Kapetanovic S, Skoog T. The Role of the Family’s Emotional Climate in the Links between Parent-Adolescent Communication and Adolescent Psychosocial Functioning. Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology. 2020;49(2):141-154.
  5. Casey B, Heller A, Gee D, Cohen A. Development of the emotional brain. Neuroscience Letters. 2019;693:29-34.
  6. Encyclopedia M, stress H. Help your teen cope with stress: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Medlineplus.gov. 2021 [cited 24 August 2021]. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000814.htm
  7. Galante J, Dufour G, Vainre M, Wagner A, Stochl J, Benton A et al. A mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress in university students (the Mindful Student Study): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Public Health. 2018;3(2):e72-e81.
  8. Leotti L, Iyengar S, Ochsner K. Born to choose: the origins and value of the need for control. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 2010;14(10):457-463.
  9. Di Liegro, Schiera, Proia, Di Liegro. Physical Activity and Brain Health. Genes. 2019;10(9):720.
  10. Paruthi S, Brooks L, D’Ambrosio C, Hall W, Kotagal S, Lloyd R et al. Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on the Recommended Amount of Sleep for Healthy Children: Methodology and Discussion. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2016;12(11):1549-1561.