It is never too early in life, or too late in life, to learn valuable coping skills. Parents with troubled teens quite often find that much of the behavior seems confusing. In reality, teens may be acting out due to a lack of effective coping strategies for stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. Being a teenager is filled with hard to navigate challenges.
Between pressure at school, sports, or peers, teenagers can feel like they are on a massive rollercoaster of emotions. Blend social media pressure, online bullying, teen angst, and you have the recipe for a potentially volatile situation.
As a parent, you may feel somewhat helpless as you watch your troubled teen struggle to cope and adjust to a world that is constantly changing. The good news is that there are several ways that you can step in and help your troubled teenager with positive coping strategies that can make life a little bit more manageable.
A guide to coping skills
What are positive coping skills?
How do you know if you or your teen have healthy coping methods to lean on?
We all face challenges each day. How we handle these challenges can differ significantly between individuals, but it often comes down to your set of coping strategies. These skills are what we lean into when going through phases of high stress.
How our coping skills are applied to situations can also vary. Some are temporary fixes to get someone through a solo event, while others are techniques that can be incorporated as often as needed to reduce anxiety and stress. And it is important to acknowledge that works for you may not work for your troubled teenager.
Your stressors as an adult may be quite different from those that your teenager is facing. That doesn’t mean that teen stress should be minimized, as that will not produce positive results for anyone involved. As the parent of a troubled teen, it can help to try and recognize what’s triggering short-term or long-term stress and anxiety in your teenager.
Some short-term and long-term stress sources for troubled teens could include the following.
- A heavy and demanding workload from school
- Being involved in too many extracurricular activities
- Frustrations with being unable to keep up at school
- Relocating to a new school
- Relationship problems with friends
- Bullying or harassment from other students at school
- Natural body changes, and comparing their body to others
- Negative feelings or thoughts about their body or ability to keep up with schoolwork
As parents, we may try to shield our children from what we’re struggling with. Children of all ages can be incredibly perceptive to the stresses within the home and the family. For example, we may try to hide financial concerns, but teenagers may be acutely aware that things have changed due to a job loss or another factor contributing to financial instability.
Safety concerns in the home or the neighborhood can also be a source of stress, as could any changes or worries about the stability of parental relationships. In some situations, divorces are the best solution for all involved, but they can also result in a significant amount of stress for children especially.
Whether the child has a chronic illness or someone in the family does, this can certainly be a major trigger for anxiety, stress, and depression, as can the loss of a family member or a friend.
Long-term coping skills for your troubled teenager
It may feel as though there is an almost infinite list of stressors for your troubled teen. The good news is that there are several effective ways to manage stress, with a particular focus on long-term management.
As adults, we may call it self-care, but there’s so much more to it than what is thrown around on social media. Taking care of ourselves is so important and is an essential coping strategy for a teenager to be aware of.
A few examples of long-term coping skills include:
- Eating well and eating regularly is important. Skipping meals can be related to anxiety, but it can also be a path to one or more types of disordered eating. Encourage a reduction in caffeine intake, as it can be responsible for an increase in agitation and anxiety.
- Along with good nutrition, simply taking a walk and staying active can positively impact overall mental and emotional wellness. Make a family walk around a local park or neighborhood a part of your daily routine. It can also prove to be an excellent opportunity for opening up those lines of communication as you stretch your legs and take in the scenery.
- Work with your troubled teen to learn important relaxation exercises. Yoga is often a good start, so teenagers can learn muscle relaxation and deep and focused abdominal breathing techniques. Parents can also find value in learning these techniques.
- Friends can help immensely when you’re a teenager. The key point is to ensure that these friends are supportive and positive influences. It can be hard to decide to walk away from unhealthy friendships when you’re a teenager, but it is quite often the best decision that your teen could make. If your teen struggles to make friends, perhaps after a move to a new school, consider looking into activities or clubs that can foster positive friendships.
- Therapy, in more than one form, can prove to be hugely beneficial. Therapy can be more than a place to speak about what is bothering your teen. It can prove to be a good way to learn additional coping skills. Every member of the family needs to be involved in therapy. Therapy is a good solution for teenagers who may feel like they cannot yet open up to you.
- Find an app that can help with meditations, breathing exercises, or even positive affirmations. This can help to transform a phone into a device that is less a source of stress and more a source of pursuing a positive mindset.
- Learning to identify triggers for stress and anxiety is a huge part of integrating coping strategies best. This is something that your teenager can work on, with your help or with the help of their therapist.
Be sure that you are creating a safe zone for your teenager to communicate with you. Encouraging them to speak up, only to feel judged or dismissed by you, won’t help at all. Don’t dismiss issues that to you seem inconsequential. To your teenager, they are very big and very real.
Immediate coping skills for your troubled teenager
Learning long-term strategic coping skills is excellent to start working on to form healthy habits, but they may need coping skills to implement immediately. Immediate coping skills can often be what your teen will lean into during those stressful times.
In stressful situations, your troubled teen can incorporate some of the following immediate coping skills:
- Take a break. Sometimes just stepping back from a situation can help to refresh a stressed mind. Whether the stress is coming from a school project or difficulty with a friend, just taking a mental break even for a few minutes can make a positive difference.
- Focus on fun and relaxing activities for just a bit. This could involve listening to upbeat music, putting on a sitcom, or playing games with friends.
- Write it out. Taking the time to put their thoughts into words on paper can often be cathartic. Let them choose a journal with a collection of colored gel pens, and give them time to focus to make writing down their thoughts fun. This can prove to be the needed break a stressed or anxious teen needs.
- Focus on family and friends. Indeed, family and friends can be a huge source of stress for anyone, no matter how old they are. But the right company can prove to be a source of support in times of stress.
- Get organized. Your teenager may not believe this one isn’t just a parent trying to bamboozle them into finally cleaning their bedroom. However, a clean and organized space can help to foster a calmer and more relaxed mindset. Most of us can benefit from reducing clutter and eliminating chaos. They only increase frustration, anxiety and make it more difficult to focus on the positive things. Plus, taking a break to tidy and organize can allow a frazzled mind to reset just a little bit.
As parents, you must model positive coping techniques. Confide in your teenager about some of the times when you have struggled to find the right coping strategies. This will help to reinforce to your teenager that they aren’t alone in their struggles. It can also help to reinforce just how important it is to get help when you are struggling.
Teens in crisis, particularly if they have been leaning on unhealthy coping skills, can benefit from a residential treatment center. A lack of healthy coping skills can lead to a range of destructive behaviors. At Help Your Teen Now, we can help your family to find the right residential treatment center.
With focused therapy offered by licensed mental health professionals, your teen will be able to identify their stress and anxiety triggers. They will be able to learn the coping skills needed to handle stressful and anxiety-infused situations.
Reach out to find out more information about the residential center that might be the right fit to meet your family’s needs.