Many adults say that teen years are the best years of your life, but those adults are probably looking at the past through rose-colored glasses. In reality, the teen years can be extremely stressful. No one knows this better than parents of teenagers. As a parent, the best thing you can do to help your teen is stay in close communication with her and teach her how to deal with stress.
Stress can come from all directions in a teen’s life, from his parents to his teacher and his peers. Throw in a heavy workload at school, on a job or both, and it’s no wonder that so many teenagers complain of feeling stressed. In one study, about 39 percent of teens were found to be stressed enough to describe themselves as severely depressed, according to the University of Minnesota. According to that same study, the most common causes of stress were difficulties in the relationships between teens and their parents, siblings and friends. Specific events that were found to cause stress in teens were breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, arguing with parents, money problems at home, serious illnesses in the family and trouble at school.
Teens that are overly stressed may begin to experience anxiety. They may become overly aggressive, or they may withdraw from their family and friends, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry website. Stressed-out teens may even turn to unhealthy behaviors to try to cope with the stress, including drinking alcohol, using drugs or binging on food. Stress can even cause physical problems, such as headaches, stomachaches and insomnia.
When a person finds himself in a stressful situation, the body reacts by pumping hormones into the bloodstream. Those hormones (primarily cortisone adrenaline) increase that person’s energy level, heartbeat, breathing rate and even improve vision. In the short term, these responses are healthy. In the long term, however, the body’s reaction to stress can be damaging. The body gets weary of maintaining a high level of energy and awareness. This might make a person feel overwhelmed and exhausted. In addition, the constant influx of hormones can weaken the immune system. For these reasons, it is important for parents to help their teens reduce the stress levels in their lives.
First, identify the aspects of your teen’s life that cause her stress. Identifying them may help her avoid them in the future. Make a list with your teen of the things that really stress her out, and see if you can find a way to limit their influence. See if she can get reduced hours at work, or a tutor to help with that difficult class at school. Teach her how to say “no” to things she doesn’t want to do. For those times that stressful situations can’t be avoided, help your teen learn coping techniques that can help reduce stressful feelings. Deep breathes and leaving a stressful situation can help, as can talking to someone about how she is feeling. Finally, there are lifestyle changes your teen can make to help her deal with stress in a healthier manner. Avoiding caffeine, exercising regularly, eating healthy foods and getting a good night’s sleep are all ways to reduce stress.
Teens who are severely stress may slide into depression, warns the University of Minnesota’s website. This is especially true for teenagers who suffer several life-changing events at the same time, such as if their parents divorce and they have to move to a new school. Teens who suffer from depression may show anger, refuse to follow their parents’ rules, and may cry or sleep much more than usual. It is important to monitor your child’s behavior carefully during stressful times and get him the help he needs if you notice a change in his behavior.