All parents want their children to be healthy and happy. Beyond that, we want them to be successful as they head into adulthood. The challenges teens face can strengthen—or overwhelm—them.
Today, more than ever, teens feel pressure to be the greatest, not just from their parents and family members, but also from the digital world. The lives of today’s teenagers have been invaded by social media where most people share only the good things in their lives, not their struggles. Sadly, social media intensifies the pressure for young people to be perfect.
Instagram can be particularly harmful to teens, especially girls. A recent Wall Street Journal article revealed that for the past three years, Instagram, owned by Facebook, conducted studies into how the app affects its millions of young users. “Repeatedly,” the article noted, “the company’s researchers found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls.” According to Facebook’s own research, “teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.”
Wait, There’s More…
As if that’s not enough, teens also feel pressure to get into the best colleges. For that, they need the highest grades while they are on a winning sports team, land the lead role in the school play, make the honor roll, and volunteer in the community.
Teens, like adults, are often overwhelmed with the stress they feel. In addition to the pressure to be perfect, the causes of their stress may come from school, the changes in their bodies, illness or death in the family, moving, too many activities, parents having marital problems, or family financial problems. If they don’t have the skills to deal with these stressors, it can cause anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, illness, or even alcohol and other drug use.
How Parents Can Model Stress Management
Our children learn so much from us. As parents, we need to first check ourselves to see how we are modeling stress management. Are we also letting social media upset us? Are we trying to keep up with the Joneses? Do we recognize when we make mistakes and point out to our teens that the world did not end? Are we sharing with our teens how we find balance in our own lives?
Tips for Helping Teens Cope With Stress
Developing good coping skills early in life is critical to becoming a successful and productive adult. Here are some suggestions from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for parents to help manage their teens’ stress.
- Keep an eye on their behavior and if they are feeling overwhelmed.
- Actively listen to what they are talking about.
- Learn and model stress management skills so they can learn how to cope with stress.
- Support their sports and other social activities.
The following behaviors and techniques can help teens (and adults) reduce their stress:
- Exercise regularly and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
- Get enough sleep and have a regular sleep routine.
- Avoid excessive caffeine and illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
- Learn relaxation exercises.
- Develop assertiveness training skills, such as how to state your feelings in a polite, yet firm, manner.
- Learn practical coping skills, such as how to break a large project into smaller, manageable tasks.
- Learn to feel good about doing a competent or good enough job rather than expecting perfection.
- Change negative self-talk into positive uplifting messages.
- Find positive uplifting friends.
The best way to help your child learn these techniques is to practice them yourself. Juggling family life can get overwhelming, but this gives us plenty of time to practice these stress reducing techniques while our children are watching and learning.