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Helping Your Teen Cope with Stress

Teens have sources of stress that adults may not always recognize or understand.

School is a major source of stress for teenagers according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Teens can also become stressed due to family problems and expectations, issues with friends, bullying, dating relationships, peer pressure, and poor time management.

Signs that your teen may be stressed include:

- difficulty sleeping

- headaches

- stomach aches

- increased irritability

- isolating themselves

- frequent illness

- negative changes in behavior

- difficulty concentrating

- increased worrying

According to the APA, teenagers experience extremely high levels of stress, but are not able to judge how it affects them and don't know how to cope with it in healthy ways. When teens don't know how to deal with their stress, they are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol for an immediate escape from their problems. However, using drugs or alcohol to cope with stress does nothing to help with the actual problem, and may make matters worse.

Here are some ways you can help your teen manage their stress in healthy ways:

  • Be available. Make one-on-one time a part of your weekly routine so they know they can always come to you for help with a problem. When they come to you for help, ask questions and listen to what they say. This will help you guide them in working through the problem.

  • Encourage healthy escapes. Teach your teen that it's okay to take healthy breaks from stressful situations. Physical activity of any kind is great for relieving stress. Listening to music, reading a non-school book, working on a hobby and playing with a pet are other suggestions.

  • Laugh. Encourage them to watch funny videos and get together with their friends. Teach your teenager to laugh at themselves when they make normal mistakes.

  • Write it down. Buy your teenager a journal or diary and encourage them to write in it. Make sure they understand that you will not read it unless they ask you to. Journaling will allow them to express their feelings without fear of judgement or criticism from others. After the stressful situation has passed, they can look back over what they wrote and think about how they handled it.

  • Build confidence. Sometimes it can be easy for parents to overlook the good things teens do. Make a point to notice something positive your teen does every day and tell them about it. When a teen has a strong self-esteem, they will be better able to handle stress.

  • Teach perspective. Keeping things in perspective is an important part of dealing with stress. Teens need to learn how to look at a situation from different points of view and how it fits into the "big picture" of their life.

  • Focus on the positive. Show your teen how to focus on the positive aspects of a situation. Even the worst situations can provide chances for growth and positive outcomes.

  • Seek professional help if necessary. If your teen's stress is interfering with school, family, responsibilities, or friends, if may be a sign that your teen needs additional help managing stress. Click HERE to view local mental health resources.

  • Model healthy stress management. You are your child's most effective teacher!

Stress is a normal part of life for everyone, including teens. Do your part by educating yourself, your child, and fellow parents so that you are better prepared to cope with stress. For more resources on mental health and ways to cope with stress click HERE.

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