Helping Your Teen Deal with Stress
Our topic in this month’s Online Parenting Class is helping your teen deal with stress. We talk about how pre-teen and teenage years are filled with high levels of emotion, and when combined with the pressure of school, can lead to overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety. We are here to assist you in helping you physically, emotionally, and spiritually deal with stress—with the right tools during their teenage years, they will be equipped to deal with stress in college and later in life.
One important necessity in dealing with stress is talking about it—though that’s easier said than done. But by keeping the lines of communication open, your pre-teen or teenager will be much more likely to open up to you when he or she is feeling overwhelmed. If your pre-teen or teenager is not much of a talker, try to set aside one day each week to spend with them. Take them out to breakfast before school, or frozen yogurt after school, or go for a walk. It doesn’t have to be much. During this time avoid speech designed to improve him or her, but instead really listen to what he or she has to share.
Let your teenager know you value their perspective and opinion, and make sure to affirm them through positive speech. Though your teenager still may not talk a whole lot, that’s okay. If you can make this a consistent “date” with your teenager, creating a safe harbour for them they know they can run to when stressed, they will open up over time.
Don’t ignore signs that your child may be struggling and experiencing unhealthy stress levels. Irritability, anger, extreme worry, sleeping issues or odd eating patterns are indicators of stress in teenagers. Pay attention to your teen’s behavior, and if you are concerned, consider enlisting help.
Ultimately, the best remedy for stress is trusting God. When your teenager is exhibiting signs of stress, lovingly share with them that even people who believe in God will experience stress. King David was afraid at times, stating “terror is on every side” in Psalm 31:13. He was overwhelmed with sorrow and grief. Paul wrote that the remedy for affliction, worry, and stress was to trust God who promises never to leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), and to deliver us from our enemies (2 Corinthians 1:10).
Now let’s consider some ways you can teach your pre-teen or teenager some healthy coping mechanisms.
Physical activity is probably the best way to manage stress. Exercise can re-generate brain cells and make a person feel energetic and, therefore, increase self-confidence. On top of that, it’s a great life-long habit to instill in your pre-teen or teenager that will be beneficial into adulthood.
Encourage your teen to find opportunities to engage in physical activities he or she enjoys.
Does your pre-teen or teenager enjoy theatre? Encourage them to participate in a school play. Are they active in sports? Team sports are phenomenal outlets for stress. If your student is not into team sports, hiking, rock climbing, dancing, walking and swimming are other great options.
As the parent, you can set a positive example for the family by exercising together or encouraging physical activity as a part of family time. It doesn’t have to be a 100km bike ride; it can be a hike to a waterfall or a walk on a trail.
However, team sports and other commitments to physical activities can also contribute to your teen’s stress. When they decide to add a club, sport, or class to their schedule, ask them to add up the time it will take to do each thing scheduled in their day—including homework, eating, sleeping, and socialising. Help your teenager manage their time well, and learn to keep a balanced schedule. There is no reason to add another sport or activity to the schedule if it’s going to create more stress rather than relieve it!