Teenagers and stress: 7 tips to help them deal with it
Being a teenager these days is not easy. There is a lot of information coming their way, they are confronted with challenging situations and they have to pretend to be cool! Teenage years are an interesting time in life: for children and for parents. My eldest is 17 now and behaves like, what I think is a typical teenager. An angel at one moment, a devil at another. I can see there is a lot going on in him; exciting stuff, new stuff, scary stuff, stressful stuff...
He found his feet in school, has a nice group of friends and recently girls have entered the scene as well. Some days he is over the moon, but then, he comes home, really moody and refuses to talk about why he is so moody.
I desperately want my kids to be happy and I love to help them with that. At this stage in their lives, the type of support I can give is different from what they wanted in the past. Changing a nappy, holding hands, going with them is not an option anymore. What they need now from me is to give them the skills that make it easier for to deal with the challenges that life throws at them.
One of those skills involves dealing with stress. Teens are exposed to a lot of stress, and they are not being taught how to recognise the triggers and how to respond in a healthy manner.
A recent survey (http://www.pamf.org/teen/life/stress/whatstress.html) showed that the biggest cause of stress is around school and exams (70%), followed by family (including parents) and thirdly their social life.
Another study (http://www.teenhelp.com/teen-stress/teen-stress-causes.html) presented the four stressors that teens mentioned as the cause of worry:
- school work (68%),
- parents (56%),
- friends' problems (52%),
- romantic relationships (48%).
These numbers are alarmingly high but there are ways to help your teenager manage. For a start, don’t brush their problem off as something not important. Because it is. Acknowledge that they live in a stressful time (without adding to the stress) and give them space and support at the same time.
My seven tips:
1. Make them understand what stress is and the effect it has. There is a great guide available for teenagers (http://www.fosteringresilience.com/what_is_stress.php). Understanding is step one to dealing with it.
2. Encourage them to exercise, actively play music, do crafts or spend time in nature. This can be a tough call, but I send my son to the gym when he has a test the next day, as it makes him happier, relaxed and more motivated and effective with his revision.
3. Offer healthy food. There are anti-stress foods that have proven to help. Read more here: http://drdestress.co.uk/7-great-types-of-food-to-combat-stress/.
4. Offer them a session with a coach or counsellor. More and more schools are offering these services, but if not, there are a lot of youth coaches who can help. My son has seen a coach three times now, only at times when he indicates he wants to talk to somebody (and that somebody can never be a parent) and it has always done him good (and the rest of the family as a result).
5. Teach them to stop and be mindful. Focussing on one of the senses forces you to stop the mental process of stressing – I call this: ‘stepping from stress into zen’.
6. Offer them relaxation or meditation tapes. There are plenty available via Youtube or Amazon. One of my own favourites is ‘Mindfulness: 5 ways to practice 10 seconds’ (https://youtu.be/u427SnMAWJQ).
7. Approach every day and every encounter with your teen with a smile and a laugh. Make life light by presenting it light. A positive mind can’t hold on to negativity.
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About Mariette Jansen
Dr Mariette Jansen (Dr De-Stress) is a psychological coach, using therapy models, coaching techniques and mindfulness meditation to help you become balanced, stress free and in control of your life.
Focus areas are work-life balance, confidence, food/diet stress and general stress.
Author of two books: on meditation and exam stress.