We all deal with stress, but stress in teens is caused by a convergence of factors that work something like a pressure cooker, and it’s no wonder there are occasional eruptions of emotion. Teenagers feel pressure from every direction: teachers want effort, counselors want teens to think about their future, parents want teens to make good choices, coaches and employers want teens to perform…and then there is the social pressure of being a teen: peer pressure, competition, relationships and dating. And acne. Don’t forget about acne.
It’s no wonder there is so much stress in teens. Just writing about it makes me tense. You could not pay me to repeat those particular years of my life!
All of this stress results in parents waking up one day and realizing that their precious angel is now part alien. My husband and I have survived raising three kids through the teenage years and now have a teen and tween in the house. Here’s what we’ve learned about parent/teen relationships:
Tolerance: Remember what it was like to be a teen. Understand that your child is struggling to become an individual, trying on different personalities and thoughts to discover who they are. Respect your teen’s individuality, give your teen the opportunity to make decisions and have some autonomy. Strike a balance between guiding your teen and allowing him to guide himself.
Energy: The best way to relieve stress for any human is to burn off pent-up energy. Encourage your teen to be active. Limit TV and video game time and set an example by disconnecting yourself as well. Go for walks and bike rides with your teen. Often, getting away from the home and school environment gives your teen the ability to talk about things that might be bothering them. (For my daughter and I, it was the 45-minute drive to the mall that opened her up).
Education: Support your teen’s education by continuing to make homework a priority. Encourage your teen to have balance (not too many extra curricular activities, not too many date nights, plenty of down time, plenty of rest).
Nutrition: Everyone handles stress more capably when they have good nutrition. Don’t let your teen fall into the habit of grabbing a bag of chips and a soda from the vending machine at school when they could have a balanced lunch. Keep fruits and vegetables in the house, and try to have family dinner around your table as often as possible.
Your teenager is, in many ways, very much like the toddler he once was: struggling for independence (“me do it!”) and fighting to adjust to the changing world around him. Raising healthy teens requires patience, balance, and a frequent number of date nights away.