“Stress” has become all too common a word for our young ones. I frequently hear middle school and high schoolers talking about how stressed they are and think to myself, “YIKES! You are way too young to be stressing about stress!” In our culture of go-go-go and childhoods filled with countless standardized tests, after school commitments, and very little down time, the truth is that without some concrete skill building to manage everything, your child is likely to be heading for (another) emotional meltdown.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Think of all of the energy your teen can save if they just knew how to cope with the realities of teenage life.
Here are my top tips, straight from the therapist’s mouth, about how to help your child deal with stress rather than letting the stress take over.
1. Be able to recognize the warning signs.
All too often we just push on through not ever stopping to realize that we are reaching our breaking point. When we can start to notice what our bodies and brains are telling us then we are better able to respond. Help your teen by calmly talking about warning signs for stress such as having a short temper, having a hard time to control any emotion, increased crying, increased yelling, etc. Extra points if you pick a very calm and quiet time to start this conversation.
2. Practice calming down before you reach a breaking point.
You wouldn’t expect to be able to hit a home run if you never had any hitting practice. We can’t expect our kids, or ourselves, to know exactly how to respond in a crisis if we never practice beforehand. Talk with your teen about ways that help decrease stress such as going for a walk, spending calm time with a pet, deep breathing, journaling, etc. Then practice these skills during a time that is not a crisis, this will build up muscle memory and increase the likelihood that they will remember what to do when a stressful time does come along, also it increases some calm feelings in the moment which is always a good thing.
3. Model these skills, walk the walk to prove to your teen that you believe these skills will work.
We all know teenagers can be skeptical and can usually see through any facade. If you jump into this work on reducing stress responses with your teen there is a much higher success rate than if you expect them to do it on their own. They are still learning and growing and even though they might not show it, observation of you is a main way they learn how to be in the world. If you show your teen that you are using skills to manage the stressors in your life they will be able to see that you think it’s worthwhile and helpful in the end.
For more tips and skills to help your teen manage stress and emotions, check out our Stress and Emotion Management Therapy Group running this fall from October 4th-November 8th. Click here for more information and to sign up!