Today’s teenagers are constantly subjected to various types of anxiety and stress. Doing a good job parenting can be a challenge in these situations. As parents, church leaders, teachers, activity directors, and any other type of individual that deals directly with teenagers, it is essential to know and understand the amount of stress this age group faces, as well as the potential anxiety that may be experienced. As a parent, it is often difficulty to approach a teenager and discuss the topics of potential anxiety and even basic stress. However, it is not only our responsibility as parents, but necessary for the emotional intellect of our teenage children.
Here are a few ideas that may help in these situations, but first it is important to understand what teen stress and anxiety is, and what are some of the symptoms we can look for.
What is Teen Stress?
In order to talk to your teen about any stress and anxiety that they experience, you must first learn exactly what these two concepts are comprised of. Stress is a way in which the body of an individual responds to situations, circumstances, and other similar aspects to life. While there is often an association of stress being “bad”, there are many types of “good” stress as well. As the teen experiences stress, the body starts to allow various types of chemicals to be released in the body. While having an “outlet” to release stress is very beneficial to the mind and body of the teenager, most teens will hold on to the stress and anxiety because they are not equipped with the coping mechanisms to release it.
What is Teen Anxiety?
Many teenagers suffer from anxiety. This is a direct result of stress that is present in the teen’s life. It is a severe case of worrying that can result in a number of symptoms. If you suspect that your teenager may be suffering from anxiety, there are some symptoms that you should look out for. These include:
- Appearing to be “tense”
- Nausea and vomiting
- Appears pale and sweaty
- Seems to have physical complaints such as headaches and backaches
- Complications in breathing
- Experiencing sleep problems – too much or too little
- Changes in appetite
- Not being as outgoing as usual
If you find that your child is experiencing these symptoms, or they seem “stressed out” – it may be time to talk to your teen about stress and anxiety.
Sources of Teen Stress and Anxiety
There are many different things that may lead into teenage stress and anxiety. The following details a small list of potential culprits:
- Medical and health concerns
- Family Life
- Peer Pressure
- Social Acceptance
- Experiencing a death
- New School
- Extracurricular Activities
- Financial Difficulties
- Personal Emotions
- Unsafe Living Arrangements and/or Conditions
If you discover that your teen may be experiencing anxiety and/or stress, it is time to sit down and talk. Stress and anxiety can lead to a number of medical problems. In many cases, it may lead the teen to engage in smoking, drinking, drugs, and sexual promiscuity. There are many teenagers that end up so depressed that they attempt and/or succeed in committing suicide.
How to Initiate the Conversation
Talking to your teen about stress and anxiety can be a very challenging task, but is also very important. When doing so, simply adhere to the following tips and you may find that it easily becomes a very easy conversation to have:
- When talking to your teen, you must let them know that they should be comfortable talking to you about anything that is bothering them. You should let them know that you are there to listen, anytime that they feel the need to talk. You should also let them know that if they are not comfortable in discussing issues with you, that they should find another trusted adult to talk to – a leader of a church, a youth leader, a teacher, a neighbor – anyone.
- Offering your support and a heightened sense of encouragement is very important when it comes to successfully talking to your teen about anxiety and stress in their lives.
- Try not to minimize the situation. I remember as a teen going to my parents for problems only to hear them say that 'it is no big deal and you should not let something like that bother you'. That is no way to start a conversation with your teen. What may not seem a big deal to us as adults, can be a very big deal when your child may be dealing with a certain problem for the first time. It is important to listen to them first with understanding so that they will feel comfortable coming to you not only with small problems but bigger more serious ones.
- Try not to 'fix' the problem. Or at least not right away. I am a very analytic person, and as such, when someone has a problem I try to instantly 'fix' it. Your child may not think the same as you and may not even want you to try to solve their issue right then and there. When working with someone who is upset and stressed, listening and understanding as mentioned first is usually much more important. Then, once the situation is under control, ask them what they feel could solve the stressful situation, and work together on a solution offering encourangement and support along the way. However, sometimes there may be no solutions but simply love and understanding.
- You should be certain that you provide your teen with some coping techniques that will allow them to effectively control stress levels. This may be done by keeping a diary, a journal, or participating in certain extracurricular activities.
Talking to your teen about stress and anxiety is a challenge – there is no doubt about this. However, you should know and understand that it CAN be done. You may have to have a little patience, and be a little creative, but overall, you can be successful. Learn as much as you are able to – and take that first step. You, and your teen, will be glad that you did!
Here are a couple books I found on Amazon that deals with Teen Stress and Stress management for Teens: