8 Ways Adults Can Help Teens Manage Stress
Stress. With the unrelenting pace of today’s world, stress has become something that adults need to think about. It's something that teens need to think about too. And it's something that adults need to think about for their teens. But thinking about how to reduce stress can actually cause it instead of reducing it. No one needs that.
With that in mind, here are 8 ways you can help your teen reduce stress in their life without stacking it up in your own.
8 ways you can help your teen reduce stress in their life
1. Do a Body Good
It is easy to forget that a healthy mind is dependent, at least to some degree, on a healthy body. Sleep, regular exercise, and healthy food choices are all important to managing stress. Encourage your teen in these areas. Set limits on how late they can stay out at night. Make sure you have healthy food in the house that is easy for them to grab on the go. Also, encourage exercise, especially social sports, to help your teen stay physically fit and make valuable social bonds.
2. Set Limits
As kids get older, they make more and more of their own decisions – who they hang out with, what they do with their free time, what interests they pursue. It’s good to encourage independence in your teen. After all, they won’t always have you under the same roof to make decisions for them.
But it is also okay for adults to set limits for their kids. Limits such as curfews, requiring teens to sleep enough hours, limiting the hours they can spend at their jobs, and how much time they can spend on their phones... these things can actually have positive benefits for your teen. If you aren’t sure what limits would benefit your teen, do some intentional observation. Try a little reading between the lines. Take a good look at how your teen is really doing. You’ll probably get a good idea of what limits might be most beneficial for them.
3. Point out the Positive
What is your teen good at? If you don’t have a ready answer, it might be time to think about where your child excels. Teens are not always good at recognizing their own talents and gifts. In addition, today’s teens often feel pressure to succeed in all areas of life – sports, academics, social lives, work, etc. The reality is that no person is good at everything. Communicate this truth along with realistic expectations to your teen. You will give them freedom from the pressures to succeed on all fronts. You can also point out to your teen where you see them excelling (and not deride them for where they have more struggles) and encourage them to pursue these areas.
4. Work Together
Have you ever shared a struggle with someone, a friend or a spouse, for example, only to have them bombard you with advice on how to fix it? If you are like most people, sometimes you just want to share your struggles without having someone try to fix you or shower you with advice. Your teen probably feels that way too, even if they can’t put that feeling into words. So even though most parents would do anything to help their children avoid any negatives in life, fixing all your teen’s problems really doesn’t do much to help them in the long run.
What does help them is working with them to find their own solutions. Problem-solving doesn’t come naturally to most people. It’s a skill everyone must learn. By talking with your teen and asking them the right questions, encouraging them to come up with a solution on their own, and not nagging them, your child will learn problem-solving abilities that are essential to success later in life.
5. Be Aware
As you have probably heard a thousand times before, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. Everyone wants life to be easy. One way we fake our way through that is by denying what we see in front of us. It is very important that adults, who want to help their teens, make a point of looking at what is really in front of them. You might hear, “I’m fine,” and “Nothing happened in school today,” on a regular basis, but you already know those statements aren’t always true. If you are hearing them, it might mean your teen is living in some denial of their own, and it’s our job as adults to look past "fine" and see what is really going on.
6. Be an Example
“Do as I say and not as I do” has never worked with teens and isn’t about to start with today’s youth. One of the best ways to teach teens to manage stress is to be a positive example when it comes to your own stress. Manage it in healthy ways. Not only that, but explain out loud what is going on inside you when you do. Teens need examples of how to properly deal with stress. Sometimes just saying, “I’m really stressed. I’m going for a run,” or “I have too much going on so I’m going to step down from leading the PTA,” is enough to teach your teen about how to deal with stress in healthy ways. When they see you choosing healthy and beneficial behaviors and know your reasoning behind those choices, they will learn to create a similar balance in their own lives.
7. Lower Expectations
Your teen isn’t good at everything. The truth is, you aren’t either. And even when adults know this, their kids sometimes still miss the message. They think that by not excelling in every area they will disappoint their parents and other adults too. It’s important for adults to teach their kids that failure can be a good thing. “Successful failures” are those from which a person learns valuable truths. When your teen suffers disappointment or feels like they have failed, help them see how they can use the experience for motivation or to learn a valuable lesson. Ask questions. Help them come to conclusions on their own rather than being preachy. Do these things and your teen will have learned both what they can gain from this successful failure and a valuable tool for handling life’s disappointments.
8. Get Help
For some parents, and for some people in general, it is difficult to admit when you need help. We live in a society where self-sufficiency is valued and asking for help looks like admitting a weakness. But holding on to pride instead of seeking help when it’s necessary is a big no-no. Sometimes what looks like stress in teens is actually a symptom that something much bigger is going on.
Learn about the symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you see the signs in your teen and they don’t go away after two weeks, it’s time to see out some help. Start by talking with your child’s pediatrician or guidance counselor about what you have seen. Then listen to their advice for the next steps to take. Remember, getting help isn’t admitting weakness or declaring of failure. It is proof that you are in tune with your teen and that their health and happiness are your biggest concerns.
No one can eliminate all the stress from their lives. Or the lives of their children. But with some practical tools in your back pocket you will be well on your way to making sure you and your teen have a healthy, well-balanced life.