With the stressors we face as adults, with work and family responsibilities, it’s easy to forget that our teens also often face significant pressure and stress as they navigate their lives. If your teen has been having a tough time, there are a few things that you can do to help them cope with their stress. Remember that some coping mechanisms may not work well for all types of stress your teen may face. Some situations may require more extensive help and guidance.
When teens become overwhelmed with the stress in their lives, they can withdraw from family and friends, become anxious, turn to aggressive behavior, and even lean into bad coping skills, including alcohol or drug use.
Types of stress teens struggle with
Some of the struggles teens face may not seem like much of a big deal to parents. It’s important not to dismiss what your teen is feeling and struggling with. Just what might be causing his stress?
- Frustration at school with the increasing demands that come with high school.
- Feeling negative about themselves after comparing themselves to others. Sometimes it can be stressful for teens to see that they can’t keep up with their peers.
- Struggles with their friends or romantic interests.
- Feeling insecure at home, whether due to their parents having relationship problems or living in an unsafe area.
- Illness in the family or the loss of a loved one.
- Moving homes or needing to change schools.
- Having taken on too many extracurricular activities.
There may, of course, be other factors that are contributing to the stress that your teen is facing. He may be open and honest about his struggles or keep it close to his chest and leave you guessing.
How teens express stress
Stress is a normal part of life for all of us. While some level of stress is expected, too much stress can quickly overwhelm your teen. It can interfere with his ability to focus, sleep, and enjoy life. Some ways your teen may express stress could include the following.
- Anxiety, with sweaty hands, tenseness, headaches, grinding teeth, and racing heart.
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
- Depression and a loss of motivation.
- Anger and angry outbursts that may be directed at parents or siblings.
- Crying and being very emotional, even when situations don’t appear to be that upsetting.
- Constantly being on edge, jumping or snapping when startled.
- Troubles at school, including difficulty focusing and dropping grades.
Your teen may also start to act out and get involved in behaviors and activities that seem very out of character for him. He may skip curfew, go out at night without permission, get involved with the wrong crowd, and start experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
Seven tips to help your teen better cope
Working with your teen to help him better cope with his stress is the best way for him to learn. It’s important to remember that we each respond to stress in ways unique to our situations and mental health. Be patient with your teen as you work with him to learn how to cope and handle his stress. By acknowledging the stress and working with him to figure out what is behind the stress you are making great strides to help him.
These seven tips might help your teen to better cope with his stress.
Tip 1: Get plenty of sleep
Rest is such an essential part of mental wellness. Between everything your teen has going on, he may struggle to get enough sleep each night. Teens also tend to keep themselves up later at night, with distractions like social media and video games.
A full night of sleep can help your teen to better deal with stress and also help him to better focus on things during his day.
Tip 2: Eating healthy and drinking plenty of water
You know just how important it is to keep a healthy diet and drink lots of water during the day. Your teen may be prone to grabbing unhealthy snacks and drinking juices and soda full of sugar.
Treats like this are certainly okay in moderation. But a balanced diet is vital in helping the body stay healthy enough to cope with stress. Make sure your teen is reaching for an apple instead of a bag of chips and that he’s giving up the sugary sodas for something more sensible.
Tip 3: Moving the body
Do you hike or run? If so, you know just how much physical activity can help relieve stress levels. If your teen is stressed, encourage him to go for a walk, a hike, ride a bike or go to the gym with you. He doesn’t need to make it his full-time hobby, but just getting out and moving his body can provide his body with what it needs.
Tip 4: Your unconditional support
Your teen may often make you feel like you no longer need to help them out of a pickle. The truth is that your teen still needs to know that you’re still in his corner, no matter what his behavior may be otherwise saying.
Teens can be hard enough to deal with, even without stress. A stressed teen may be acting out in ways that go against the boundaries you’ve set for your home. Punishing your teen for this behavior is not going to help. Instead, work with them to figure out how you can best support them through this challenging phase.
Tip 5: Communicate and keep the door open
Your teen may not be the best at communicating what he’s feeling or struggling with. By encouraging him to open up and share, you’ll better understand his struggles and how you can best help him. You can start by keeping the conversation light and focused on topics like dinner, car shows, or anything else that interests him.
The more you communicate, the more comfortable he will feel opening up to you.
Tip 6: Find ways to connect with things that bring happiness
Even just a few hours of doing something that brings happiness can help to relieve some of your stress. Does your teen like to play video games with his friends? Does he like to just watch bad horror movies? Whatever it is, encourage him to do it so he has that downtime to unwind.
Tip 7: Find the positives, even in the darkest of days
When we feel stressed, our focus is mainly on the negative aspects that pressure can enhance. Help your teen to figure out that there is always a positive to focus on, no matter how much stress he is under.
It isn’t always the easiest thing to stay positive during those stressful moments, but with your help, your teen may just find out where his significant strengths are.
There are many places to turn to get the resources a stressed teen can benefit from. At HelpYourTeenNow, we offer parents and families in crisis the connection to the resources they can find beneficial.