Stress Management for Teens and Tweens

It is no secret that adolescents have a lot on their plates. They are dealing with things that previous generations have not, like navigating social media, feeling like they can’t shut down or turn off, and information overload at their fingertips each and every day. In addition to the advancements in technology that affect tweens and teens, they also are being pushed to get good grades, excel in athletics, participate in extracurriculars, maintain friendships, prepare for college and possibly even hold a job on top of it all.

Just typing all that has made me want to lie down for an afternoon snooze.

Stress and Anxiety is on the Rise for Teens

According to a 2021 article from the American Academy of of Child & Adolescent Psychology, suicide is the second leading cause of death for children, adolescents and young adults age 15-to-24-year-olds. And according to the John Hopkins medical website, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the United States, and anywhere from 1 in 10 to 1 in 13 people suffer from anxiety, with about 8% of children and teenagers experiencing an anxiety disorder. This has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are living in more times of stress and anxiety than ever before. The teenage years generally have significant stress and this has worsened during the pandemic.”

With these statistics in mind, it’s important for teens, tweens and their parents to learn stress management strategies to help curb the feelings of anxiety and overwhelm when they threaten to take over. It’s important for them to have tools in their toolbox to de-escalate stressful situations, and to learn that this too shall pass.

Tailor Your Strategies to the Child

I have four children ranging in age from 18 to 11. We are in the thick of raising tweens and teens. What I have learned over the years is that what works for one, may not necessarily work for the other. Each child is their own unique person with their own skill set, personality and needs.

For example, some of my children are more introverted. For them, stress management may be a time-out from whatever it is they are doing. It may be a scheduled break, going on a walk, watching a show, or reading a book. For my children who are more extroverted, stress management may look like going out for a frappuccino or a special treat, having a friend over or taking a break to FaceTime someone they love. I have learned over the years that I need to pay attention to what makes them tick and what helps them when the walls are threatening to close in. I am more introverted by nature, so for me, a quiet break goes a long way. But just because that is what I long for in times of stress, that doesn’t mean that is what my children long for, too.

To learn more about what helps your child in times of stress, have conversations with them when they are not in the midst of a stressful situation. Find out what you can do to help them and build those things into their schedule.

Regardless of personality types, there are plenty of studies that show the value of exercise, good nutrition and being sure you get the recommended hours of shut-eye each night (which can feel next to impossible in the tween and teen years.)

If you look at the schedule and see a stressful time is on the horizon, try to help your teen eat healthier snacks and meals, get outside and move their body, and get to bed at a reasonable hour. They may push back, but remind them it is for their benefit.

Also, try to help your teen understand how to maintain their schedule. If they have an ACT test coming up, it’s probably not best to schedule a late work shift or a sleepover the night before. If it’s the week of finals, that’s probably not the best time to plan a birthday party. And if they have a big game coming up, that’s probably not the best time to stay up all night making TikTok videos.

Stress management is a lifelong skill we need through all stages and ages of life. The sooner we start to incorporate them into our lives, the better. You may receive some pushback from your teen as you start to incorporate healthy boundaries, schedules, and of course, managing the use of technology, like putting the phone away at bedtime and setting screen time limits. But hopefully, your child will see the benefit outweighs those things they feel they are missing out on. And as their stress begins to decrease, their mental and physical health will be all the better for it.

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