Teenagers commonly experience stress as a result of difficulties with peers, family, school or their personal thoughts, feelings or behaviors. Peer problems may include conflict with friends, a break-up or being bullied. School related pressures range from academic performance, relationships with teachers to moving and changing schools. Family issues may involve the separation or divorce of parents, chronic illness or death of a family member or financial difficulties. Negative thoughts and feelings about themselves may relate to changes in their bodies, feeling unsafe in their neighborhood, taking on too many activities or having too high expectations.

Teenagers need to have the resources to cope with the everyday stress they experience, and can benefit from learning stress management skills. When teens become overloaded with stress, they may experience anxiety, depression, withdrawal and even physical illnesses. They may also turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drug and alcohol use.

Parents should monitor how stress is affecting their teen’s health, behavior, thoughts and feelings by listening carefully and watching for overloading. They should build a strong and positive relationship with their child which will be a safe place to turn to for help. This is done most effectively by listening without judging or giving advice. You want to send a message that you are willing to listen and to understand what they are going through. At the same time, offer reassurance, encouragement and support.

Teens will have less difficulty managing stress if their parents provide structure, stability and predictability. Parents should also employ effective stress management and coping skills themselves that they can model for their teenager. Meanwhile, there are plenty of steps teenagers can take to manage their own stress such as:

• Exercise and eat regularly, and avoid excess caffeine
• Participate in a variety of recreational and social activities
• Avoid illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco
• Learn relaxation techniques, practical coping skills and how to substitute positive or neutral thoughts for negative self-talk
• Build a network of support among friends, family members and other adults

These suggestions can help a teenager manage stress more effectively. However, if a teen shows signs of being unable to handle stress, please consult your pediatrician or a qualified mental health professional.

If you’re looking for support with parenting your teenager, contact me to learn more about my parenting coaching services.