Empowering Your Teen to Find Healthy Habits to Deal With Stress
As adults and parents, we often want to believe kids don’t have it as hard as we had it “back in the day”. We’re all guilty of this thought popping into our heads when a child utters the slightest complaint about anything happening in his or her life. The first truth? No one’s problems or struggles should be discounted regardless of how small another may think the struggles and problems are.
The second truth? Teenagers truly have a whole lot of challenges they’re facing that are far worse than most of the challenges we all suffered through back in that day I referred to earlier. It ain’t easy being a teen these days and schools, and medical insurances, aren’t providing help to handle the stress. If they can’t handle the stress, their mental health declines and the world - as a whole - suffers.
The State of Teen Mental Health
Kids today really do have challenges many of the previous generations never had to deal with. These new challenges require skills most parents never had to acquire growing up, so we’re more inclined to brush it off and tell the kids to “just deal with it, we all survive teen-hood”. However, if you think about it, kids are struggling in brand new ways and they need help handling stress.
Sports are more competitive now that college is so expensive and scholarships are few and far between.
Bullying has increased and is now easier to do thanks to social media and smartphones.
High schools have a “no kid left behind” mentality, but most kids are being held to a higher standard without being provided the support they need to hit those graduation requirements.
Fast Food and unhealthy eating habits are more prevalent because we’re over-scheduled trying to overachieve to look good on college applications and have no time to eat real food.
The world expects kids to grow up far too fast, and because of this kids are entering relationships at younger ages they just aren’t ready to handle.
Teenage mental health is taking huge hits right now. It’s leading to tragedies all around the world, but it seems to hit American teenagers extra hard. So what can parents and loved ones do to help teach kids how to handle teen stress? Let’s find out.
Stress Management for Teens Struggling with Teenage Stress
Teenage brains aren’t fully developed. Any challenge, regardless of the depth of the challenge, affects teenagers at a level it doesn’t always affect adults. It’s up to the grown-ups of the world to allow our kids the chance to open up about what’s going on in their lives. That’s the first step. Having an open-mind when your kids come to you with anything they want to discuss. If you’re there for the smaller things, they’ll feel safe enough to talk to you about the bigger things.
It’s also up to parents to instill the idea that asking for help shows STRENGTH, not weakness. It takes great knowledge to recognize a struggle, or challenge, is beyond your skill set. It’s not just okay to ask for help, it’s smart as hell! As parents, we need to model healthy coping skills to our kids and teach them how to problem-solve, because schools aren’t going to do this. It’s also up to us to show them negative thinking and self-talk has no place in their minds!
But how can teens manage stress beyond these behaviors us parents model?
Sleep! Teenagers stay up late, have to be up early for school. Show them sleep is necessary for healthy bodies. Healthy bodies improve their ability to handle stress. Eight to ten hours for teens is the sweet spot.
Physical Activity. You don’t have to force them into an exercise routine. Do they play a sport? Can they take a nice walk around the neighborhood? Get the blood flowing for at least 60 minutes every day.
Meditation. Meditation professionals are plentiful. You can find a local program, or an online program, that teaches your teenager how to pay attention to their thoughts and feelings without judging themselves for thinking or feeling these things.
Talk. Let your kids know if they don’t want to talk to you, there are people all around them who care and want to listen. It could be a trusted family member, or a professional therapist. Wherever your teen will feel safe talking freely without the fear of judgment or punishment will help alleviate stress and improve their mental health.
Journaling. They don’t have to have an official “journal”. Just encourage your teen to write down what’s going on in their mind. Their frustrations, along with positive and negative: feelings, thoughts, desires. You’d be surprised how writing down what they’re grateful for can alleviate stress and anxiety.
Go outside. Even if it’s just to sit and breathe in some fresh air, being in nature often relieves stress and anxiety.
Enjoy some fun activities. Nothing has to be planned. Teens just need the time to enjoy something fun. Does your kid love art? Head to the art supply store together and pick up some supplies. If you aren’t well-versed on the supplies, ask questions and allow your child to teach you something new. Then give them the time each week to enjoy doing artwork.
Downtime. Teens are over-scheduled. Let them relax once in a while. No running to another lesson, or activity.
Give Back. Kids need a sense of purpose. They need to know they matter in the world. Find a way for them to give back to their community and be a part of something bigger than themselves, so they can see just how important they are to the world around them. If they understand they have a true significance in the world, handling stress will be a little easier.
The most important thing a parent can do for a child dealing with challenges: provide safe spaces for them to express their feelings. If the space isn’t with you, give them the chance to speak to a professional.
Let’s Work Together to Empower Your Teen
Most parents can agree today’s teens are living in a world far more dangerous, complicated, and overwhelming than most of the generations that have come before them. Our world today is spiraling out of control, so it’s no wonder many teens are feeling anxiety and stress in ways we could never understand. What we can do for them is provide safe ways to talk it out if they aren’t able to manage their stress with some of the above strategies.
Give me the opportunity to work with your teenager to empower your teen so they can not only handle stress, but also squash it and move forward to a healthier mental state. I’m here to help.