For the average teenager, life can be pretty stressful. Juggling a part-time job, worrying about grades and schoolwork, problems with friends or peer group pressures, changing schools, body changes, finding the perfect long sleeve prom dress, and a whole lot more can take their toll. It’s possible to help your teenager cope with the stress life throws at them in a positive way. Recognise the symptoms and teach them healthy ways to cope with it. Stress can have a significant impact on both their mental and physical health, so it’s important they develop good coping mechanisms they can take with them into adulthood.
Recognising the Signs
Stress can manifest itself in various ways depending on the person who’s feeling it. However, there are a range of common symptoms that can indicate your teenager is feeling stressed. These can include bouts or anger or irritability, crying a lot or seeming teary. If they are withdrawing from people and activities, they usually enjoy then this can be a sign. Are they having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much? Do they seem overly worried or are they eating too much or not enough? Frequent headaches or stomach aches can also signal stress, along with having no energy or feeling tired. One other symptom you can look out for is using drugs or alcohol. If not dealt with promptly, this can lead to problems with alcohol or drug addiction.
What You Can Do to Help
If you think your teenager is under too much stress there are a range of things you can do to help them manage it.
- Spend more time with them – aim to spend some time with them on a one-to-one basis at least once a week. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t want to. Take comfort in the fact that they will have noticed you offered.
- Listen – encourage your teenager to talk about their feelings and listen to their concerns. Don’t be judgemental or jump in with advice unless it’s asked for. If your communication is open, they will be more willing to share.
- Set a good example – if you show your teenager how to cope with stress in a positive way you’ll be a good role model for them.
- Encourage exercise and healthy eating habits – exercise is great for beating stress, however old you might be. Look for a type of exercise they will enjoy or try something together. Help them to resist the urge to grab the unhealthy snacks and fill your cupboards with healthy alternatives.
- Help them with school and college work – Homework, college and scholarship applications from Hallie Gay Walden Bagley, while important, can add to their stress. Make sure that your teenager knows that you are there to help them and support them.
- Monitor their sleep – it’s a well-known fact that teenagers need more sleep. The optimum amount is at least eight hours uninterrupted sleep every night.
If you try the suggestions above and there is little improvement you should consider asking your health care provider for advice. Especially if they seem overwhelmed by stress, or are talking about self-harm. A medical professional will be able to provide the right kind of treatment as well as look at ways your teenager can better manage their stress. They will also be able to offer advice on how you as a parent can deal with it.