We tend to think of stress as being something that only adults deal with. After all, children and teens typically don’t need to worry about a full-time job, a mortgage, and maintaining stability in marriage and family.
What do teens have to be stressed about?
In truth, today’s teens can feel just as much stress as adults do. Teens face increasing pressure at school, in peer groups, at home, and through extracurricular activities.
Just as some adults may find unhealthy coping skills, so can teens. Unhealthy coping mechanisms may include things like drug use, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and poor decision-making. If stress is not better managed for teens, it can lead to a struggle with anxiety and depression that they find difficult to shake. It can also contribute to physical health concerns like increased blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.
Teaching your teen how to manage his stress in a healthy way can help give him the tools he needs today and tomorrow.
What’s stressing your teen out?
Stress can look different for younger children, teens, and adults. Younger children tend to be impacted by changes in the home: parental struggles or divorce, siblings, or a move to a new school.
School itself can prove to be a huge source of stress for younger children and teens. Bullies, peer struggles, teacher difficulties, grades, and sports can all be stressors to your teen.
Teens can also be stressed less by what’s happening at school or in the world. Social issues can be difficult for teens to cope with, even if they aren’t directly impacted by them. The relationships that teens have with friends and romantic interests can also lead to stress if there are challenges in the relationship.
Recognizing what stress looks like in teens
Teens can show the signs of stress in similar ways to adults, but the signs of stress can also be subtle, which is why it’s important to understand them before they escalate.
Behaviors your teen may exhibit if they are stressed include:
- Unexplained irritability, short-tempered behavior, and anger.
- Behavioral or personality changes.
- Sleeping changes. Your teen may struggle with insomnia or may sleep more than he used to. Sleeping struggles are also a red flag for mental health concerns.
- Changes in eating. Teens may eat less, or they may overeat to cope. Eating disorders can be common in teens and are often less about their appearance and more about needing control.
- Forgetfulness and neglecting important things. Your teen could forget important things, like due dates on homework assignments or showing up to a part-time job on time.
- Feeling under the weather. Stress can often manifest as something physical for many of us. Your teen could start to complain about feeling unwell, having headaches, or feeling nausea.
The importance of organization
Many of the areas of stress in most adult lives can be remedied with better organization and control of their schedule and environment.
What does this look like for your teen?
Your teen may struggle with keeping up with homework assignments, important dates, and other obligations. Get him a calendar that will be easy to add to, adjust and manage. This could take the form of a whiteboard in his bedroom, a planner, or an app that gives him alerts on his phone.
Organization should also extend to his bedroom and his desk. Adding cleaning and other chores to his schedule can help to keep him on track. It can also give him the sense of responsibility he needs to provide him with a sense of control.
Better organization of his schedule and his space can also help give him the breathing room that he needs as he tackles his day-to-day.
Address pressure at school
Teens today are pretty often overwhelmed with their workload at school. There isn’t always something that can be done with parent intervention, but you must understand what your teen is dealing with at school.
Does he have an overwhelming number of assignments? Help him to organize his assignments and due dates using the tools that work best for him.
If your teen has ADHD or another learning challenge, you may be able to get him to help in the form of extra time to take tests and extended deadlines on assignments.
Meeting with his school counselor can help you and your teen better understand his options for balancing schoolwork and assignments.
Get a good night’s sleep
The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Teens may struggle to sleep or keep themselves up all night browsing social media or playing games to distract themselves from stress in their lives.
Lack of sleep can make it much harder to cope mentally and physically with the stress in their lives. Your teen should be getting between eight to 10 hours of sleep each night.
Ensure that screen time and other distractions are minimized at bedtime so that they can wind down when it’s time to get some shuteye.
Staying physically active
We’re all guilty of being so bogged down with busy schedules that we forget to get up and move our bodies. Even just a few hours of physical activity each week can help to improve mental clarity.
Encourage your teen to take a stroll with you each afternoon or get bikes and go for rides around the neighborhood. Getting outside and enjoying fresh air can help manage stress by refreshing and resetting a stressed mind.
Teach your teen about self-care
It’s not just adults who need to engage in healthy self-care. Teens can benefit from a bit of time to themselves, doing the things that help calm them and bring them joy. Whether reading a book, watching movies with the family, or just unwinding by the pool. There are also great benefits to be seen by encouraging your teen to spend time with friends and romantic interests.
A part of self-care could include learning about mindfulness and meditation. This offers a stressed teen the ability to take a minute, take a breath, think about what is happening, and how to best address it.
Modeling healthy behaviors
Our teens look to us as an example of how to cope. If you are struggling to cope and feel overwhelmed by stress, this is an excellent opportunity to show your teen how to handle stress in a healthy way.
Communicate with your teen about how you’re feeling and show him how you can alter your reactions and behaviors to manage your stress better.
You could also start to integrate new coping methods as you teach your teen. Get better organized, go for that walk each evening, enjoy time with a good book are just a few examples of things you can do.
Get professional help
While integrating new healthy stress coping strategies, you could also find great benefit in getting help from mental health professionals. Whether individual counseling, family therapy, or a more intensive program like those found at a therapeutic boarding school, your teen can come out the other side feeling a renewed sense of control and strength.
Residential treatment programs help teens who are struggling to adapt to stress while in the same environment responsible for it. At Help Your Teen Now, we can connect families with the resources they need to find their way back to stability and healthy coping strategies.