Stress is a part of our daily lives. As a parent, it might be heavy traffic on the way to and from work, the demands of being a good parent, the need to get that next raise at work, pressure to pay the mortgage and more. For your teen, it might include trying out for a sport, studying for a big test, peer pressure to engage in drinking, drugs, or sex, balancing school, work and free time, or pleasing Mom and Dad.
What happens when stress becomes too much? How do we deal with stress? How can we help our teens deal with the stress that occurs in their lives?
As a mom of three—ages 23, 21, and 16—and a mental health peer support specialist, I have many opportunities to support teens and adults in making healthy choices. The following ideas are some that I try to practice in my own life.
Set a Good Example for Your Teen
Even though teens are growing more independent, they still notice the choices we make. Modeling a healthy work/life balance will go a long way in showing our teens the importance of taking care of our physical and mental well-being. Ask yourself:
- Do I take time for my family each week?
- Am I involved in physical activity, such as walking or running regularly?
- Do I keep in touch with friends?
- Do I do something fun each week?
- Do I de-stress in healthy ways?
These are all important questions to ask yourself to see if you’re taking care of yourself and if you’re setting a good example for your teen.
Be Honest About Your Own Struggles with Stress
Everyone has had difficulty dealing with stress at one time or another. When we’re open with our teens about our own difficulties, they’re more willing to be open with us. Also, sharing our own struggles takes away fear and anxiety.
On the other hand, when they see us unwilling to admit to our own problems or coping in unhealthy ways, like drinking too much, they’re more likely to use similar ways to deal with stress in their own lives.
Help Your Teen Make Good Decisions
Make decisions with your teen and discuss the pros and cons of the decision with them. This helps your teen begin to take ownership of their lives with your oversight. This is the time to help your teen learn to make decisions that support balance and wellness in their lives.
Listen to Your Teen Every Day Uninterrupted
This part is so important. It can be hard to find time to do this every day, but this is the commitment we need to make as parents. This shows our teens how important they are to us. It gives them the opportunity over time to share their hopes, dreams, fears and struggles. Open communication is the key to helping your teen with whatever stress may come their way.
Provide Physical, Social, Spiritual & Creative Outlets for Your Teen
Providing opportunities for your teens to take part in the activities they enjoy will help them deal with stress. I like to call these activities of enjoyment “wellness tools” since they often make a person feel happy and healthy. Wellness tools also help your teen increase self-esteem and independence. They can begin to use these wellness tools as a healthy part of the rest of their life.
Take Your Teen’s Struggles Seriously
If something is important to your teen, take it seriously. Listen between the lines. If communication lines are open, you will notice when changes occur.
Don’t forget to get outside support when needed. A hotline, a counselor, a therapist or a support group may provide the extra assistance your teen needs to develop wellness tools for a healthy balanced life.
Do You Have Concerns About Your Teen?
If you’re concerned about your teen’s current stress levels and managing stress, here are three steps you and/or your teen can take:
- Attend a Youth Wellness Recovery Action Plan Support Group: This group helps teens identify and build their own plan to deal with life issues. Learn more.
- Take an Online Screening: This confidential screening will help you learn more about how you’re doing and what next steps, if any, could be helpful. Take a screening.
- Talk to a Counselor: Bryan Counseling Center has counselors who specialize in working with teens and families through a variety of concerns to build a brighter future. Find a counselor today.
Health ExpertLisa Jarvis is a Peer Specialist with Bryan Mental Health Services.