How to help my teen deal with stress

Thrive Psychology Clinic > Blog > How to help my teen deal with stress

August 19, 2020 / By thadmin2

As a child begins adolescence, they may start to encounter high levels of stress in their everyday lives. Stress may derive from varying factors, such as emotional and physical changes due to puberty, a competitive academic environment, busy schedules as well as peer pressure to fit in desired social circles. Furthermore, stress can cause an individual to suffer from more headaches, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, and even affect concentration levels. As such, having a good support system within their family is imperative to helping to alleviate some of the stress adolescents face.

In order to appropriately support your teenager through stressful situations, it is necessary to identify the root cause of the stress. Thus, it may be helpful to ask yourself questions such as “Has my teen been displaying any signs of stress?” and “Where could the stress be coming from?”

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), typical signs of stress in teens include: 

  • Anger and irritability
  • Changes in regular behaviour: Crying or looking upset and moody often
  • Lack of interest in daily activities which he or she used to love
  • Irregular appetite and eating patterns
  • Irregular sleep patterns: Increase or decrease in sleep 
  • Falling ill more frequently

As the causes of stress are not immediately obvious when interacting with a teenager, it may be important to consider prior experiences which they’ve been through in order to assess why your child is feeling stressed. Generally, children are likely to feel stressed when they are in novel situations which bring uncertainty, unpredictability and may pose a threat to the ego. Additionally, the stress could also originate from not feeling a sense of control over the situation they are placed in. For example, a changing environment where the teenager has to overcome the death of a loved one or moving schools may result in stress as there is a loss of control, uncertainty and unpredictability in the situation.

In particular, a common source of stress in teens originates from school demands or frustrations. As your teen ages, it becomes increasingly important to fit in with their social environment. This could take the form of not wanting to fall behind their peers in terms of academic achievement or wanting to have many friends. Regardless, striving to achieve the perfect balance between academics and social life, whether it be from parental or self-pressure to do so, can add an immense amount of unnecessary stress on a teen. Furthermore, as a teen enters puberty and undergoes changes in physical and cognitive aspects of their body, they may become increasingly self-conscious about the way they look and sound. In the process of adapting to the ongoing changes in the body, teenagers might feel stressed as they may be uncomfortable with changes such as a sudden growth spurt, hair growth in pubic regions and deepening of their voice. Although these changes are normal due to the sudden fluctuation of hormones in the body, it takes time to adapt and adjust to. For instance, our hormones such as estrogen and progesterone (in females) and testosterone (in males) predispose us to react to situations differently than usual. This may cause your teen to be more emotionally charged and react strongly to situations that would otherwise be mistaken for an “overreaction”.


Here are some tips you can make use of to support your teen through stress:

 

Teach them the difference between healthy stress and unhealthy stress (when stress becomes bad for you)

It can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy stress. Healthy stress is the optimal amount of stress that helps to keep us going and also a short-term mental state, while unhealthy stress is longer lasting and may bring an individual down. The main difference between healthy and unhealthy stress is that once the healthy stress has subsided, it is usually accompanied by a feeling of euphoria and relief. On the other hand, unhealthy stress takes a toll on both your physical and mental health. It can affect one’s everyday routine, ranging from mood to relationships and even quality of life. Thus, learning how to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy stress is the first step to early intervention.

 

Have an open and honest conversation with your child

For parents, it can sometimes be difficult to support your child through stressful situations without overwhelming your child with more questions. As such, it is important to build an open relationship with your teen from a young age and ensure there is healthy and open communication. Through this, your child will feel comfortable to approach you when they are struggling. In having open and honest conversations with your teen, it is crucial to validate their feelings and make sure your child feels heard and understood. Before jumping to giving advice, you might say something like “Thank you for sharing how you feel with me. I hear you and I’m here for you. How long have you been feeling this way?” This will encourage them to express their feelings with you openly without fear or criticism or judgement.

 

Give your child a chance to develop effective coping skills 

Although it may feel appropriate to help your child “fix” their problems in an attempt to make it go away, it can actually be more beneficial for teenagers to learn to deal with their stress on their own. This skill can then be carried forward into their adulthood. For instance, cultivating a good habit of proper time management skills can help a teen avoid the stress that often accompanies procrastination of tasks. This also means he or she is able to complete certain tasks on time and to the best of their ability. As every child is unique, do allow your child to explore different coping mechanisms that makes them feel comfortable and relaxed. According to the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, some examples of coping strategies include: physical activity and exercise, promoting regular eating habits (e.g. take your child out for a delicious meal to encourage them to relax and unwind), and ensuring ample time to participate in hobbies such as arts, dancing, etc.

 

Encourage them to get outside and pursue their hobbies

Research has shown that time spent outdoors in nature is an effective way of relieving stress and improving one’s mood. Taking a short walk whether it is in the park or in the nearby residential area will be hugely beneficial to allowing the mind to rest. On the same note, you should encourage your adolescent to take part in some form of exercise or sports whether it be indoor cycling, a game of tennis, joining a soccer team or attending yoga lessons. Sports and exercise are healthy outlets to releasing stress and tension from everyday activities. This is an essential part of developing a balance between school, life and any other commitments your child has.

 

Seeking help

Stress management is a vital skill not only for a child’s development but also for him/her to carry into adulthood. Studies have shown that mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety are most likely to develop during one’s adolescence than any other period of their life. Furthermore, the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) has reported an upward trend in suicide mortality rates. These are largely attributed to children and youths being unable to manage their stress levels while facing overwhelming responsibilities and expectations.

If you find that your child is struggling and unable to handle the stress they are facing, do not hesitate to seek help. Here at Thrive Psychology clinic, we offer various services that can target common problems found in today’s children and youth. Our goal is to get an accurate read on your child’s experiences so that we can put together a comprehensive treatment plan that targets their unique needs. We are committed to helping children and adolescents thrive. If you would like to find out more about behavioural treatments or would like to arrange for a consultation, do contact us and we would be happy to assist you!

We have also released a meditation series for young children between the ages of 6-12. This series aims to teach children meditation and relaxation techniques from a young age. Meditation helps us to clear our minds from all the problems or negative feelings we have experienced in the past week, and maintain a positive mindset. You can learn more about this meditation series and listen to a preview for free through our Facebook page.

If you would like additional resources on children, do check out our wide range of online content, and subscribe to our mailing list to stay updated on our latest educational videos, meditation podcasts and e-books. The aim of our digital downloads is to provide content that can help enrich parents with some understanding of possible problems that may arise as your children are growing up, and how to deal with them.

 

References

Stress, H. (2020). Help your teen cope with stress: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19 August 2020, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000814.htm

How to help children and teens manage their stress. (2019). Retrieved 19 August 2020, from https://www.apa.org/topics/children-teens-stress

Managing Stress in Teens and Adolescents: A Guide for Parents. (2014). The Brown University Child And Adolescent Behavior Letter, 30(S4), I-II. doi: 10.1002/cbl.20210

Han, G. (2020). Youth suicides still a concern, with 94 cases last year and in 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2020, from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/number-of-suicides-in-2019-did-not-decline-compared-with-2018-youth-suicides-still-a