How to Parent Teens When You Are Feeling Completely Overwhelmed

Throughout life, everyone goes through times of feeling completely overwhelmed. Whether it’s a battle with depression or severe anxiety, a death in the family, a divorce, a job loss, a bankruptcy, or one of countless other traumatic events, every person has to deal with trials and losses. When these events occur during the years when you’re parenting teens still living in the home, this can add stress on top of an already overwhelming situation. You must continue caring for your children and teenagers during the trying times, but there are ways that you can make it easier on you and on them. Here are five tips on how to parent teens when you’re in the midst of feeling completely overwhelmed.

1. Practice Self-Care

One of the first things people tend to do when they are feeling completely overwhelmed is forget about their physical needs. If you are going through a crisis, it’s more important than ever that you take good care of yourself, but it’s also likely that you’re not doing so. It’s very easy to forget about needs like food, water, exercise, and sleep when you’re intensely worried, sad, or traumatized.

It might seem strange to do so but one way to make sure that you are practicing self-care during stressful times is to schedule these basic needs. If you are experiencing strong emotions, it’s likely that you don’t even feel hunger or that you are constantly exhausted and not able to get enough sleep. Make sure you’re eating three healthy meals per day. Go for a walk every day; even ten minutes around the block can boost your mood and get your blood moving. Talk to your doctor about remedies if you’re not able to sleep. Make sure you’re drinking enough water. Take good care of your body so you can take care of the situation.

2. Allow Others to Help

During times of high stress, it can be difficult to ask for help. Whether it’s pride or a sense of not wanting to bother others, reaching out to others to not only ask for but also accept help often feels like too large a task. The problem is that you are not able to do everything on your own, so by trying to rely only on yourself, you are making the situation even harder than they already are.

Think about what you could use the most help with. Do you need childcare? Someone to prepare meals? Would you like company when you deal with paperwork or logistics that have come up in the wake of the crisis in your life? It might be helpful for a friend to simply take your kids for a weekend. If you are married, lean on your spouse, but do realize that he or she might be going through the same type of stress that you are. If a close friend or family member offers, let them put together a meal calendar or arrange childcare or cleaning for you.

3. Limit Your Obligations

If you normally have a hard time saying no, now is the time to develop the skill. If you are stressed out about a difficult situation, it’s best to limit your outside activities to those that are absolutely needed and those that will make you feel better. Evaluate which activities and events you can walk away from. Don’t feel the need to give a drawn-out explanation when you have to decline an invitation to take on more responsibility; it’s perfectly acceptable to simply say, “no, I won’t be able to do that,” and not elaborate further.

If you need to, sit down with a friend or family member to outline your priorities. Your main obligations are to take care of the physical and emotional care of yourself and your family. If you work outside the home, find out whether your situation qualifies for family or medical leave. Drop all non-essential volunteer activities, and don’t be afraid to reschedule non-urgent appointments or meetings.

4. Practice Relaxation Techniques

When you are feeling completely overwhelmed, it’s easy to let anxiety and panic overtake your emotions. Eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep can help relieve some of those feelings. You can also try some relaxation techniques. Some examples of relaxation techniques include:

In addition to these relaxation techniques, try to take the time to simply goof off and laugh while putting your worries on the back burner temporarily. Ask a girlfriend to join you for a lighthearted comedy at the movie theater. Go watch a baseball game with your teenagers or run around with your little children in the backyard. Try to schedule some time each day where you can be “off” when it comes to your worry and stress.

5. Make a Plan

Many times, having a plan can help you get through the toughest times. Think about one or two small actions you can take that will lighten your load. If you can’t plan for next week or next month, try just creating a plan for the day. Write it down and follow it as closely as you can, then create a new plan for tomorrow.

If you do have appointments and meetings coming up that can’t be rescheduled, put them on your calendar. Plan ahead when it comes to which meals you will serve and eat, and write down small tasks like returning phone calls and even basic housecleaning chores. Knowing what you are going to do and when you are going to do it can put that part of your life on autopilot while freeing up your mind to deal with the larger problems at hand.


These are tips for how to parent teens during times of high stress. However, if you are still feeling completely overwhelmed after using these strategies, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor or your mental health counselor. He or she will be able to give you some pointers and suggestions on how you can better cope. Medication might help in some cases. Your children are likely being affected as well, so don’t hesitate to get mental health counseling for them, too. With help, you and your children will get through this difficult time and you will be back to normal after the crisis passes.

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