Stress affects all of us. From financial issues, to deadlines and worries about personal relationships, stress can overwhelm us from time to time. Even more so if you are a teenager and fluctuating hormones are always throwing you off while you juggle school with finding your social footing. How then, can parents like us help our teenagers relieve stress?
Here are four easy ways to help your teen manage his/her stress.
Get good sleep
Did you know that not having enough sleep impairs your cognitive abilities, in turn making it harder to do other tasks and manage relationships? It sounds like such an easy fix, but getting good rest can make a world of difference to how your teen feels -- even about his/her problems. Between homework, activities and hanging with friends, it can be hard for teenagers to get enough sleep, especially during the school week. Ideally, adolescents should get nine hours a night. Help your teen maximise his/her chances of sleeping soundly, cultivate a habit where the whole family cuts back on watching TV or engaging in screen time in the late evening hours. Reading a book is a good way to ease into sleep mode!
How you think about things affects how stressed you get by them. Like adults, teenagers can develop unhelpful thinking that makes it harder to deal with stress. Unhelpful thinking can get out of control, particularly if it becomes the normal way you think about things. Help your teen shift their way of thinking. If a friend cancels on them, instead of spiraling into negativity, ‘He doesn’t really like me’, get them to see that the friend could really just be very busy. It helps if your teen spends time thinking about the things they are good at and do those things more often. For example, tutor a younger neighbour in math if that's what they are good at. Focusing on strengths can help keep stress at bay.
Physical activity is one of the most effective stress busters. Exercise helps your body release endorphins and that makes one happy. The best way is to build exercise into your teenager's routine so it doesn't feel like a chore. Help them find activities they enjoy and do it regularly. It doesn't have to be running. It could be yoga, hiking, biking, skateboarding or walking. The best types of physical activities are those that have a social component so do it as a family, or have them pick up hobbies with their buddy.
Sometimes, all a person needs is someone to confide it. It isn't even the advice that comes from the session, but just having a listening ear can relieve some stress. Talk to your teen, find out about his/her life, and when they confide in you, don't unleash judgment, don't say they have it easy or tell them to wait till they start work and learn how difficult adult life can be. Be there for them and listen, offer a hug and ask them what they need, how you can help make things better. A listening ear provides wonderful comfort!
Most importantly, have faith. There will be times where you will be overwhelmed by the actions of your teen. There will be mistakes that your child will make and several of them. It is therefore easy to lose faith and be mistrustful of your teenage son or daughter. But remember, that the mistakes are their way of finding themselves and developing skills to make the right choice in difficult circumstances. The teenage brain has a developing pre-frontal cortex which makes it harder to for them to fully understand the consequences of their actions and engage in goal directed behaviour. They tend to rely on the part of the brain called amygdala for decision making. The amygdala is associated with emotions, aggression, impulses and instinctive behaviour. Understanding this process of brain development and having faith in your child is important for parents to be able to support their children in this crucial time of their lives.