Crying

Teens are stressed.

It’s important for parents, grandparents, guardians, and other adults with teens in their lives to be aware of ways to help teens who are dealing with stress.

The good news is we are able to help and the strategies for assisting stressed-out teens don’t have to be complicated. 

Here are some steps for helping kids cope.

Encourage them to speak up. Let them know you’re available and willing to listen.  Set aside time to be there for them. 

Let them speak and actively listen. Don’t feel as if you need to solve all of their problems.  What you can do is listen and make it clear they are being heard.

Believe them. Don’t downplay their feelings or act as if their stress isn’t real. Perhaps in comparison to what we deal with as adults, teen stress may seem less serious or complicated, but it’s very real to them.

 Empathize. Make it clear you acknowledge their feelings as their truth and their reality. Phrases like “I understand how difficult it must be for you” or “I can tell this situation is painful for you” can make it clear to your teen you understand.

Help them identify what they’re feeling. Research has shown being able to identify and label emotions can make it easier to deal with and adapt to them. 

Be self-aware. Be conscious of your own reactions to stressful situations around them.  They look to us for guidance and leadership. It’s OK to acknowledge you may be under stress too, but it’s important we maintain control of our emotions.

Help them protect their body. Sleep, exercise and nutrition are important, and even more so when a teen is dealing with stress. One of the ways parents can make sure their teens are getting more sleep is by not allowing them to take their devices into their bedrooms at night.  

Balance their technology use. Smart devices have become many kids’ primary method of communication. We don’t want to completely restrict their use. But it’s important to know how to keep their device use in balance with the remainder of their lives. Designate certain periods of the day for device use. We need to set the same example ourselves. 

Encourage self-care. Make sure your teen is spending time doing things they love, things to help reduce their anxiety and cause a natural release of feel-good neurotransmitters.

These things can include yoga, meditation, art, music, writing, sports, skateboarding, deep breathing exercises, making or reading memes, watching humorous videos, getting outdoors, time with pets, etc.  

Serve others. Have your teen join you in doing something nice for someone else. It can be as simple as an encouraging phone call, making someone a gift, or taking the time to listen to someone else.

Restore control. During times of stress, life can feel out of control, especially for young people. Let them be the one to pick what you have for dinner, what movie you watch, or what activity you do as a family. It can be a nice change from them feeling like they have no control over anything.  

Take care of yourself. We can be much better prepared to help our kids if we are taking care of our own basic physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs. 

 

- Shane Watson is a spokesman for the nonprofit, notMYkid, which helps families and communities identify and counteract negative teen behavior. Information: notmykid.org.