Parenting In Focus: ‘I can’t stand any more stress’

We all experience stress from time to time. Your teen is the same.

He experiences stress from school demands and frustration, negative thoughts and feelings about himself, changes in his body, problems with friends and/or peers, separation or divorce of parents or illness. Severe problems in the family, such as death, moving or changing schools, taking on too many activities or having too high expectations or family financial problems can also cause significant stress.

Parents can help teens in these ways:

• Monitor if stress is affecting your teen’s health, behavior, thoughts, or feelings.

• Talk with him and be sure to listen carefully to him.

• See if you find indicators of his being overloaded.

• Read, learn and model stress management skills for him.

• Be there for him.

• Support his involvement in sports and other pro-social activities.

If you see signs of stress, talk with him about ways to decrease it:

• Encourage him to exercise, eat regularly, and get plenty of sleep.

• Help him avoid caffeine in coffee or soft drinks.

• Talk with him about avoiding illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

• Help him learn relaxation exercises; do these exercises so he can learn about them.

• Talk with him about learning practical coping skills; for example, talk about separating tasks into smaller parts.

Reframe the problem

Help him decrease negative talk about himself. Think of ways to say things positively. Instead of, “Life will never get better,” encourage him to try, “I feel hopeless now but life will get better if I work at it and get some help.” These kinds of conversations can help him, but they need to begin earlier than when he feels hopeless about life.

Encourage him to take a break from situations that are stressful. Listening to music, talking to a friend, drawing, or spending time with a pet can help reduce stress.

Talk with him about friendships which would help him feel more positive. By merely talking with your teen, you are helping him or her in a positive way.

With a little help, your teen can begin to manage his or her stress. If your teen still shows signs of being overly stressed, talk with a school counselor (when school is in session and a counselor is available there) or contact a qualified mental health professional.

Don’t just ignore the stress your child is under. Just because of your teens age doesn’t mean he doesn’t need help. Help him or her. You are very important to your child even at this age.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which published newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents.