Article By Joanne Foster, EdD
Adolescence can be both challenging and complicated, a time of possibility and peril. Indeed, it can be a stressful time of life.
Through the early and mid-adolescent years—from eleven to eighteen—changes are happening all at once, in every area of a person’s life. Teens are dealing with confusing and often conflicting worries about peer pressure, integrity, family demands, popularity, their unique identity, sexuality, academic decision-making, career ambitions, and more. *
There are many ways parents can help kids navigate the teen years. In an earlier post at Kids Now (where I discuss various tips that align directly with Kids Now program elements), I list three key strategies for stress management: creating a healthy and balanced lifestyle; learning to recognize and appreciate one’s own capabilities; and connecting with trustworthy supporters.
In The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Happy Children in a Stressful World (2015), parenting expert Katie Hurley discusses the symptoms and triggers of stress. She also offers several solutions. For example, some of her suggestions for helping kids reduce stress include the following: revisit schedules; prioritize sleep; increase quality time: step away from the news; practice breathing techniques and body mapping (to understand how stress affects the body); and help kids create a stress-free zone.
There are many ways parents can offer support, and provide the encouragement kids need to develop the necessary coping skills when life is stressful. Here are some additional tips that I have for parents.
- Show your support. Be available to chat, answer questions, and offer reassurance. Don’t hover or intrude, but recognize that kids may not always ask for help as they move toward independence. Parents who are accessible provide a comfort zone in what might otherwise be a complex emotional and social whirlwind.
- Help during times of change. New school, friends, or program? Holiday or event-related stress? Changes within the family circle? Children don’t have a lot of experience navigating life’s transitions or ups and downs—or the sense of vulnerability that can ensue. Kids may feel pressure, anger, disappointment, elation, nervousness, and more—and these emotional responses may be in flux. Help children understand what they’re feeling, and why.
- Be patient. Early adolescence is a sensitive period when the brain is changing dramatically and kids are trying to figure things out. Day-to-day life may trip them up, offer surprises, or seem overly demanding. Parents can encourage kids to pace themselves, and to find adults they can trust (for example, a teacher, mentor, or guidance counselor) who can provide additional support and direction, especially when things get rocky.
- Look after yourself. And then share your strengths! Parents who show that they’re hardy—that is, parents who are resilient, and who demonstrate how they overcome stressors that occur in their own lives—send a strong, positive message to their kids.
- Believe in your child. Reassure kids that they have what it takes to keep on learning, growing, and succeeding. Help them appreciate that obstacles and failures are inevitable; that they can still move forward and even benefit from setbacks; that it’s okay to be upset but it’s also important for them to try and develop and adopt a “can-do” attitude and approach when things get difficult. Have faith in their abilities and reinforce their efforts.
Helping kids now means being attuned and responsive to their needs, using resources wisely, working cooperatively with others who can offer assistance, and modeling some of the strategies that will ease life’s complexities so as to make each day a resounding success.
Author’s Note: This article on tips for managing stress is part of a series focusing on each of the five modules that comprise the Kids Now program. Here are the links to the other four program-related articles posted on the Kids Now site:
Developing conflict resolution skills:
For further information on the topic of stress management and more, see Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (House of Anansi Press, 2014). (* The introductory quote above was extracted from p. 72.) For kids who have difficulty dealing with pressures and task completion, see Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Kids Overcome Procrastination by Joanne Foster (Great Potential Press, 2015.) Additional resources at http://www.beyondintelligence.net
Links and Further References