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We, as parents of tweens/teens, often express our frustrations by saying: “How can they be stressed out, if the only obligation they have is to study?” “I’m the one driving them around, working, providing, cooking, cleaning, supporting, worrying.. I’m the one who is stressed out!” Yes! Adulting and parenting are extremely stressful activities; however, being a teenager is also stressful.
According to a survey conducted by the APA (American Psychological Association) in 2013, stress is extremely common among teenagers.
What does stress look like in teens?
Children and teenagers find it difficult to recognize and express that what they are experiencing is stress. The first thing to look out for is negative changes in behavior, emotions, and thinking. Common changes are:
- Nervous or anxious (i.e. excessive worry)
- Refusing to go to school (i.e. physical symptoms)
- Less energy than usual (i.e. sleeping too much)
- Irritability (i.e. being aggressive)
- Changes in eating habits (i.e. too much or too little)
- Sad and hopeless
- Moody or cranky
- Feeling worthless
- Getting lost in thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing
- Difficulty remembering things
- Difficulty organizing and planning
You might also notice physical changes in your teen, such as frequent infections and colds, changes in menstrual cycle, dizzy spells, excessive tiredness, weight gain or loss and etc. (Note: Consult a pediatrician if your child/teen presents any of these symptoms)
What are some reasons that lead to stress in teens?
- Brain changes: The teenage brain is not fully mature. Studies suggest that part of the brain involved in emotional responses is drastically changing during the teen years.
- Hormonal changes: No surprise here! We all know that teenagers go through an avalanche of hormonal changes during these years. What we don’t usually take into consideration is that these changes are not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally and socially.
- Romance: Due to changes in the brain and an increase in the reproductive hormone, these are the years that teenagers start having “crushes” and maybe even fall in love for the first time.
- School: Middle school requires a lot of adjustment. They go from having one or maybe two teachers to having several professors. They now instead of sitting in the classroom they have to move from one side of the campus to the other in less than 5 minutes to catch the next class. In High school, there is the pressure about the future.. GPA, extra credits, College applications, summer job, etc. OH! Let’s not even mention peer pressure.
- Home: Now they are old enough to stay home by themselves for a couple of hours, make their own lunch, baby-sit their younger siblings, etc. And they must do all that with responsibility!
How to cope with stress?
- Family time: Sometimes quality family time, such as playing a board game, painting, watching a movie or sharing ice cream can rekindle connection. A connected family is less stressed.
- Communication: Model open and honest conversation with your teen. Start the conversation from a place of understanding. Listen to your teen without over-reacting.
- Discipline: Provide consistency and love while also applying positive discipline and limits.
- Attend support groups for parents of teens and/or seek professional help.
- Participate in physical activity: Studies have shown that exercise increase endorphins that can help reduce stress.
- Journaling: Jotting down life events and feelings gives your teen the opportunity to reflect on the experiences and events that were recorded.
- Meditation/Guided relaxation: Just a few minutes of meditation a day can help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Listen to music: Soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. Upbeat music can also help by invigorating your teen.
- Call a friend: Having a support system and reaching out to them is key to reducing stress.
If you think your teenager is stressed and having difficulties with daily activities and relationships, feel free to get in touch with me. We can set up a time I can meet with you and your teen. I can support you and discuss with your teen ways he/she can manage their stress in a healthy way to have the kind of life they deserve.