Teens might be more stressed out than ever before. While every generation goes through a hormone- and angst-filled adolescent period, there’s some evidence that shows that teens in 2018 might have more to worry and stress out about than those in generations past. Read on to find out some of the causes of this overwhelm that is affecting our teens as well as ways to manage teen stress.
Why Are Teens So Stressed Out?
As the parent of a teen, you might wonder what, exactly, is causing so much stress in today’s adolescents? Here are a few of the factors that can cause teen stress:
Academics and Extracurricular Activities
With college costs rising exponentially, it’s less affordable than ever for young people to pursue higher education. Also, the job market is steep, so in addition to being a stretch in terms of affordability, college has perhaps never been so important. This means that the competition for scholarships and college admittance is fierce.
The natural reaction of many teens is to strive to do as well as possible in school. Advanced Placement and honors-level courses are the mainstays of many successful high school transcripts. In addition, teens are often involved in a myriad of extracurricular activities, from sports to drama and everything in between. All of this can add up to a lot of teen stress.
Many families change as the children move into their teens. If one parent stayed home, he or she is often deciding to go back to work by this time. Also, some parents get divorced once the nest begins to empty and middle age sets in. There might also be job loss, financial difficulties, and other adult issues to contend with; while younger children might be oblivious or unconcerned, teenagers often take these situations to heart and worry about them.
Just like when you were a teen, peer pressure and friend-related drama can cause problems. In some cases, peer influence is positive, but it can still create competition and stress. Teens are often dating, which causes relationship issues on top of their already busy lives. Also, some of your teen’s friends might be dealing with eating disorders, depression, parental divorce, questioning their sexuality, drug abuse issues, and other heavy situations.
Constant Information Overload
Something that is constant across the generations at this period of time is the constant information overload. Your teen might be worried about the current political climate, the possibility of nuclear war, racial issues, the plight of refugees overseas, and many other situations that are talked about on the news 24/7. In addition, they are constantly bombarded with images of their peers that have been filtered and edited to look great, causing some insecurity and additional stress.
How Can Parents Help Manage Teen Stress?
While your teen needs to learn how to manage stress, your job now is to walk him or her through the process. Here are some ways you can help:
Insist on Proper Self-Care
Eating properly, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly can go a long way toward alleviating stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, teenagers are notorious for not doing any of those things. As a parent, you can’t control everything your teen does, but you can strongly encourage them to make good choices. If need be, you can refrain from buying junk food, turn off the wifi at a reasonable time on school nights, and get your teen involved in doing something physical, even if that means enforcing chores like mopping, gardening, and washing the car. These self-care habits will go a long way both now and when your teen is an adult.
Talk About Balance and Control
Counsel your teen about time management, balance, and letting go of control. Sometimes, things need to be just “good enough” and not perfect. The teen years are a great time to accept this, particularly if your teen tends to be a bit of a perfectionist. Get your teen a planner (either digital or paper) and show him or her how to use it to keep track of what’s going on. This will help keep time- and task-related stress under control.
Teach Teens Relaxation Techniques
Everyone should know a few relaxation techniques that they can do when they are feeling overwhelmed. These can include:
- Deep breathing
- A hard workout
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Guided imagery
Your teen might be able to relax best in a hot bubble bath or while listening to his or her favorite music. Talk to your adolescent about what makes them feel relaxed. Then suggest those methods when you can see your child is getting upset or stressed out. Soon, they will know to turn to these methods when they need to calm themselves down.
Be a Good Role Model
One of the best ways you can help your teen get through stressful situations is to do so yourself. Set a good example by taking good care of yourself, using relaxation techniques when appropriate, giving up some of the control and perfectionism that you tend to have, and managing your time well.
Seek Professional Help
If you need counseling or other professional mental health services, seek them out without succumbing to the secrecy and stigma that can surround mental health issues. If your teen needs mental health counseling, he or she will be more likely to accept it if a loving parent is being a good role model for this method of stress relief.
The teen years are often tumultuous, but keeping up open communication and being supportive of your teen can help. It’s important to listen to him or her and to take their problems seriously. While you might know that friend-drama will fizzle out in a matter of days or weeks or that your teen is overreacting to getting one bad grade in math class, you won’t be able to convince your child to simply not stress out. Instead, show them how to cope with teen stress in a healthy way and don’t be afraid to seek counseling services if you think they could benefit from them.