Is your teen stressed out? If so, it’s not surprising. Teenagers sometimes experience more stress than adults realize. They’re under a lot of pressure to achieve academically, especially if they are on the college track. They may also feel pressure to achieve in extracurricular activities, especially if they’re involved in competitive activities like sports.
On top of that, teens experience various social pressures from their peers and may also be juggling jobs or family obligations as well, and they’re doing all of this during a time when their bodies and minds are undergoing drastic changes. It’s no wonder they get stressed out! But what can you as a parent do to help your stressed teen?
Listen to Your Stressed Teen
It sounds simple, but in many cases, it’s hard for parents to just listen to their teens talk about their stress without offering advice or making judgments. It’s easy to assume that your stressed teen is being overdramatic or give them a list of things to do to solve their problems without stopping to focus on their feelings about their problems or to help them find their own solutions.
It’s important to remember that your teen’s feelings are real, even if their method of expressing those feelings strikes you as being overly dramatic. The teen years can be a very intense time, and teenagers don’t have an adult’s years of life experience to help them put things into perspective, so problems that seem small or easily manageable to you really might be overwhelming for your teen.
However, your teen is also approaching adulthood, and they do have the capacity to find solutions for many problems themselves. Listening and helping your teen problem solve, instead of just offering solutions, is the best way to help your teen develop their own problem-solving abilities and give them a sense of control over their own lives.
Help Your Stressed Teen Determine What They Can Control
Feelings of stress and overwhelm often occur when someone is trying to change or control things that aren’t really within their power to control. Letting go of worries about things that can’t be controlled can help to relieve the stress.
For example, if your teen is on a sports team and is stressed about an upcoming game or match, it can help them to remember that they can’t control things like what the weather will be that day, how skilled the competing team is, or even how well their own teammates train and prepare for the competition.
They do have control over how well they train, however, so their best bet is to focus on that and work on letting any other worries go. That way, win or lose, your teen will know that they did their best that day, and that’s really what matters.
When your teen tells you what they’re worried about, ask them to tell you what part of the thing that they’re stressed about is within their power to control. Encourage them to take charge of what they can control as best they can and remind them that they don’t need to invest mental or emotional energy into worrying about things that they can’t change.
Teach Your Teen to Prioritize
Who hasn’t taken on too much from time to time? You’ve probably done this yourself, and teens aren’t immune to this mistake either. It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed when you’ve committed to more than you can realistically handle.
If your stressed teen has found themselves in this situation, they may need to back out of something that they’d previously committed to, and they definitely need to learn how to prioritize their activities and engagements so that they don’t continue to feel overwhelmed.
Learning how to prioritize doesn’t necessarily come naturally, so your teen may need some help. They’ll need to be able to identify the things they actually need to commit to – passing their core classes in school, for example – and things that may be nice if they have time, but not necessary.
For instance, many teens would like to have a part-time job for extra spending money, but as long as their basic necessities are being taken care of at home, they don’t necessarily need a part-time job, especially if it’s interfering with more important things, like their schoolwork.
As you’re helping your teen learn to prioritize, don’t forget that too much work is as potentially damaging as too little. Your teen may not need to attend every pizza party and movie outing that their friends plan, but it’s not good for them to spend all of their time in school, studying, or in structured activities, either.
Your teen does need to spend time with friends and have fun. Teach them to prioritize a healthy and reasonable amount of fun and relaxation in addition to studying and schoolwork.
Brainstorm Ways to Relieve Acute Stress
In particularly stressful moments, your teen might feel so overwhelmed that they can’t concentrate enough to figure out how to relieve some of the stress. In these moments of acute stress, your teen might feel anxious or even panicky.
That’s probably not the best mindset for prioritizing and scheduling, identifying and letting go of worries about things beyond their control or even sitting down and discussing what’s causing stress in their lives. What your stressed teen needs in those moments is a way to calm themselves down quickly.
There are many ways that your teen could relieve stress in particularly overwhelming moments, but your teen may need to experiment a little to find out what works best for them. Meditation can be a useful tool for many people to help them calm down and relax.
Some teens may find it helpful to do something physical to de-stress, like going for a run or a swim. Others might benefit more from taking a nap. Talk to your stressed teen about different methods they could use to shake off acute stress so that they can then approach the problem more calmly, and encourage them to find the method that works best for them.
Some stress can be a good thing – it can simply be a sign that you’re ready for action and motivated. But too much stress can be harmful and counterproductive. If you can teach your stressed teen the difference and teach them how to handle excessive stress effectively, that skill will benefit them for many years to come.