Teenage Parenting Tips
Many of the stresses teens experience are related to growing up. They worry about their changing body, struggle with sexuality and search for their identity. Teenagers can talk about their problems and should have developed problem-solving skills. However, because of the emotional upheaval and their uncertainty about important decisions, they need special help and support from adults.
During early adolescence, teens are very sensitive to criticism. Even Well-meant advice can seem like criticism and trigger an angry or defence response. Self-esteem is generally low. Common stresses include taking
tests, pressure to make good grades, pressure to experiment with sex and drugs, problems in boy/girl relationships, concerns about fairness, right and wrong, nervousness about speeches and competition, uncertainty about personal appearance, pressure from too many activities, caring for younger brothers and sisters, not enough time, and lack of self-confidence.
How can you tell if your teenager is under too much stress? Look for eating or weight problems, excessive daydreaming, drug abuse or nervous tics like unusual eye-blinking, nail biting, and muscle twitching. Emotional stresses can lead to talk about suicide, delinquency, perfectionist behavior, isolation, and failure in school. Neglecting personal appearance, increased irritability and exhaustion are other signs of stress. Often teens respond to stress by withdrawing, not communicating, becoming rebellious, and getting into trouble.
What can you do to help? Teenagers need to find constructive ways to deal with stressful situations. As your teenager learns that he can deal with problems, he gains a positive attitude about himself. Offer honest praise when he does a good job on something. Remember to say thank you. Teenagers often feel unappreciated.
Consider your child's schedule. Is he over-extending himself? Some teenagers find themselves wamped when they add an after-school job to an already full Day. Is he expected to do too much at home? Although teenagers should be Doing regular chores, some do become overburdened with them. Teenagers are Still children, and they need time to relax and play.
Perhaps the most effective way to help your teenager manage his stress is to keep the lines of communication open. He may not want or need your advice, However, he will appreciate your attention. Most teenagers like adults to just Listen to them. They want someone to hear what they have to say. This Doesn’t mean that you shouldn't express your opinions, particularly on Important matters like values. But if every discussion turns into an Argument, you may need to spend more time listening, and to express your Opinions calmly and quietly.
Encourage your child to do physical activity. Teens can work off some of their Stresses in aerobics, cycling, skating, or jogging. This is a very Constructive way of dealing with stress. Other positive approaches include Learning to be assertive, to control anger, and to say "no."
When should you seek help? Adolescence is a difficult time for teens and their families. When pressures become extreme and when solutions run out, it's time to talk about getting help. When you see evidence that your child is using drugs or when your teen talks about suicide or begins giving away treasured items, get professional help immediately. Watch for warning signs of depression, risky sexual practices, unusual antisocial behaviour, and personality changes.
Children cannot escape the stress and the pressures that come with living in today's society. However, they can learn ways to cope. As a parent, you can help your child in a number of ways:
Teach your child to solve problems. He needs to learn to identify the problem, possible solutions, pros and cons of possible solutions, and then to select the best choice.
Talk with your child. Set aside a special time to talk. Find out what's happening in his life. Be honest and open with him. Tell children about the family's goals and discuss difficulties, without burdening them with your problems. Compliment children when they do well, and don't forget hugs and kisses.
Make sure your child has periods of quiet time so that he can relax. Teach him that exercise--playing ball, skating, swimming, running, walking, riding a bike--is also relaxing. Be supportive. Mutual respect and shared values help during periods of stress. Your child needs to let off steam. He will also benefit by seeing how you cope successfully with stress.
Teach your child to identify stressful situations. He should talk about them or write them down. Teach him to transfer coping strategies to other Situations. Role-play a stressful situation with your child. Help him to figure out a constructive way to deal with stress. Use humour to buffer bad feelings and situations. A child who learns to use Humour himself will be better able to keep things in perspective.
- Don't overload your child with too many after-school activities and responsibilities.
- Help children learn to pace themselves. Don't enrol them in every class that comes along, and don't expect them to be first in everything.
- When you are under extra stress, check to be sure that you are not passing it along to your child.
- Set a good example. Demonstrate self-control and coping skills. Encourage Cooperation rather than competition.
Professional Help for Reducing Stress
Stress is a feeling of discomfort that is experienced somewhat differently by children and adults and from one individual to another. Our world is full of situations and events that cause stress unemployment, marital tension, death of a parent or sibling, serious illness or injury, unexpected bills, etc. Particularly for children, stressful events might include parents' divorce, abuse or neglect, poverty,school failure or illness. Even positive events can create a degree of stress such as moving to a new home, a new job, a new baby in the family, etc. Although a certain amount of stress is good, life today presents most of us with more stress than we want or need. The age of the computer, of instant information, of instant evaluation of our actions, rather than making life easier as we always thought it would has added to the expectations that others have of us or that we have of ourselves. With a little more time, we feel that we can always do "just a little bit more."
It is important to distinguish daily life "hassles" from significant stress. Parents and children experience such common hassles as waiting in line (at the bank, in the school lunch line), changes in daily routine, rescheduling appointments, conflicts with family members or friends, etc. Generally, children (as well as adults) learn strategies to effectively cope with these small hassles. Significant stressors, such as a death, loss of income or serious illness, are more likely to catch children or adults unprepared to cope. These events result in serious consequences for the individual's physical and emotional well-being. However, while life's "hassles"generally have less negative consequences, the cumulative effect of many such "hassles" can be as detrimental as any single traumatic event. The perception of stress is also related to experience and development what is stressful for one person may not even amount to a small hassle for another. The ability to evaluate stress level and to develop coping skills increases with age and cognitive development.
Our environment is stressful. However, much of our stress is caused by our mental attitude in conjunction with the environment. Can you remember a time when something happened that nearly sent you "through the ceiling" in anger, even though on another day the same event might have bothered you very little? This is an example of the effect of our thoughts on our mood. Having to get something done for a sympathetic loved one is much less stressful than having to get the same task done for a boss, a teacher or another individual who has power over us or whose expectations we feel we have to meet. Thus, it's not the situation that causes all the stress. Our beliefs about the situation are a big piece of the puzzle.
Although different individuals will find different events more or less stressful, stress in children is usually caused by:
- New, unfamiliar or unpredictable situations
- Unclear expectations
- Expectations of something unpleasant (e.g., pain)
- Fear of failure (socially or academically)
- Major developmental "hurdles" (moving from elementary to middle school, leaving home)