Navigating Teenage Stress: A Guide for Parents and Carers

Life is full of ups and downs, and the teenage years are no exception. Adolescents face many challenges, from physical changes to academic pressures, social dynamics, and emerging identities. For instance, they might be stressed about upcoming exams or fitting in with their peers. While these experiences can be exhilarating, they can also be daunting for teens and their parents and carers. So, while stress is to be expected during this period, it can significantly impact their well-being if it is ongoing or chronic. Knowing how to spot stress in your teen is important as a parent or carer. So, what are some signs of stress in teens?

Signs of stress in teens

By being aware of these signs, you can intervene early and help your child manage their stress effectively. Some common signs include irritability, moodiness, withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleeping patterns, headaches, and stomach aches. If your teenager is under stress, it could affect their academic performance. They may begin to procrastinate, become perfectionists, or develop a fear of failure.

It can be challenging to distinguish between typical teenage behaviour and signs of a more serious problem. If your child is having more conflicts with friends or avoiding social activities they usually enjoy, it could be a sign that they are struggling. They may be more sensitive to criticism or rejection and have sudden mood swings or emotional outbursts. Although these behaviours are common among teenagers, it's essential to trust your instincts as a parent to determine if they are struggling more than usual. Remember that you know your child better than anyone. 

Normalising stress

Adolescence is a stressful time! It's hard work being a teenager, and experiencing stress is a natural part of growing up and experiencing life's challenges. Validate your teen's feelings and reassure them that it's okay to seek help when needed.

Seeing stress as a positive

Stress is a natural part of life and can even be beneficial if managed correctly. For example, students may find it stressful to cope with a lot of work before exams, but they can manage this by developing study strategies that work for them, seeking help from teachers or tutors, and taking care of themselves by practising mindfulness or exercising. This not only helps them perform better academically but also teaches them valuable life skills such as time management and self-care. They learn to understand their strengths and abilities, which they can use to overcome future challenges, encouraging resilience and adaptability.

Teenagers often experience stress and emotional turmoil due to conflicts with their peers or social rejection. By working through these situations, they can learn to understand other people's perspectives, practice empathy and communication skills and build stronger relationships. They also learn to have open dialogues, actively listen, and resolve conflicts.

Strategies for parents and carers

If you notice any signs that your child might be stressed, it's crucial to initiate a conversation about their feelings. Adolescents may find it challenging to articulate their emotions, so if they do open up, it's essential to listen to them and try to understand their perspective. You might be tempted to intervene and solve their problems, but this may not align with what they want or need. Sometimes, all they need is a supportive ear and a shoulder to lean on.

When supporting your teenager, it's vital to strike a balance between giving them independence and being there for them. This stage is about allowing them to make decisions, learn from their experiences, and develop their problem-solving skills. They don't need you to fix every issue they face, but they do need your guidance when they ask for it. You can ask your teenager if they want you to listen or help them work out their next steps. Let them know you trust them and are there for them if they need you.

Here are some practical ways you can help your kid manage their stress:

  • Sleep - Encourage your teen to limit their tech use before bedtime and keep digital devices out of the bedroom.
  • Physical activity - Exercise is good for their mental and physical health and can be a great way to relieve stress.
  • Hobbies and interests - Doing the things they enjoy can be a great way to relieve stress.
  • Spending time outdoors - Encourage your teen to spend time outside and breathe in some fresh air.

It's important to lead by example. When you practice these habits, you not only set a good example but also help your teenager understand the importance of self-care and compassion. These strategies have been proven to be effective in managing stress, so by encouraging your teen to adopt them, you're giving them a valuable tool for life.

Identifying when stress becomes an issue

If you have concerns about your child's stress levels or mental health, it's crucial to reach out for professional support. While you can check in with your child's school to see how they are doing there, it's always best to talk to your child about this first rather than going behind their back. They might benefit from talking through their feelings with a counsellor, but checking with your teen first is essential. They might be hesitant at first, but you can mention it as an option for them and see if they decide that it is something they would like to explore. Remember, there's no shame in seeking help when needed, and it can make a significant difference in your child's well-being.

Remember that working collaboratively with your teen to help them manage their stress effectively helps them and provides an opportunity for growth and connection.  

Counselling for parents can help you find ways to best support your teenager. I work with parents to help them understand and manage their feelings and their children's and develop coping strategies. If you want to find out more, you can contact me by clicking HERE.