Aiding Your Teen With Stress Management

by | Aug 5, 2020

Dr. Stephanie Larsen

Clinical Pyschologist at Healthy Minds Pyschology Group

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Stress can be beneficial; it motivates individuals and can keep us safe in times of danger. Stress is normal and inevitable; however, in cases of extreme intensity stress can also be debilitating and overwhelming. Teenagers are particularly at risk for high levels of stress. Below is a list of various ways of helping your teenager cope with stress.

Ø  Break it Down and Create a Plan

Many times teens may be overwhelmed with tasks and their brains have not yet learned how to effectively use their executive functioning skills such as planning and organizing. It may be helpful to sit with them and plan out important projects, break down assignments and studying, or demonstrate scheduling through family calendars and to-do lists for tasks. Working through project rubrics or creating timelines is ideal. If you have a busy teen, it may be demonstrating good organization and time management by creating a dry-erase, monthly calendar, and sequences of necessary activities.

Ø  Focus Teens on Their Strengths

We all have areas of strengths and weaknesses and when focusing on our weaknesses we are bound to feel overwhelmed and stressed. It is great for an adolescent’s self-esteem to be involved in areas that promote and demonstrate their strengths. Strengths can range from social strengths, academic clubs, sports, or working with animals to name a few. Parents can also reinforce and acknowledge where their child succeeds. It’s important to not just expect straight A’s in English because that is the child’s strengths, but rather acknowledge the strengths within this subject (i.e. “Johnny, this essay is so well written.”)

Ø  Sleep Schedule

Developmentally teens tend to prefer late hours and late mornings; however, this naturally desired sleep schedule is ineffective when considering teen’s school schedules. It is important for stress management that a teen is getting at least 8.5 hours of sleep per night to function at optimal levels. It is important to place sleep guidelines in the home. These guidelines may also include no blue-light technology (i.e. phones, t.v., tablets) at least one hour prior to bed. Caffeine restrictions should also occur during the afternoon hours.

Ø  Get Active

Physical activity is a great way to naturally relieve stress. Twenty minutes of daily physical activity is a recommended minimum for adolescents. This does not have to mean exercising in the gym or high-intensity running, but may be incorporated into fun extracurricular activities such as tennis, skateboarding, walking a dog, playing a sport, yoga, swimming, or biking with friends. The activity also does not have to be done alone, but could be done during family events.

Ø  Maintain a Balanced Schedule

As important as it is to succeed in school, it is also important to maintain a balanced lifestyle between education, socialization, self-care, family time, and health. Life should also be fun and include activities that your child finds fun and exciting. Having fun activities scheduled or used as a reinforcer can also be motivating to overcome stressful periods. Fun activities could be socializing with friends, going to the movies, watching Netflix, or playing music.

Ø  Talk it Out

Even though teens will often give very little information spontaneously to their parents, many teens will divulge information if asked at the right time and in the right way. For many teens, it is their parent’s sheer interest in their lives that are important to them. Even if your teen does not participate you are opening the lines of communication.  It is important during these times that parents listen in nonjudgmental ways without jumping to problem solve the situation for the child. Additionally, it is developmentally appropriate for teens to feel uncomfortable sharing all their personal information with their parents, which makes it important that you have identified a safe and trusted person to be a confidant to your teen. These individuals may be a spiritual leader, relatives, or a therapist/psychologists.