Let’s face it: Parenting our teenagers comes with growing pains.
One day, you have a calm, happy child. The next, you have a stressed-out teen dealing with puberty, peer pressure and exams.
Teens today face new challenges, and multiple studies show that parental stress is on the rise. While some stress can be good for us, constant or chronic stress can have real consequences on both emotional and physical health.
The good news is that these teens (known as Gen Z) are also the most likely generation to report mental health concerns and seek professional help.
Help your teen(s) cope
Raising teens isn’t easy. Remember to be patient with them and yourself. Your job isn’t to solve all their problems or demand perfection. Know that mistakes and setbacks will happen in teens’ lives. It’s part of growing up.
As a parent, take care of the basics. Show teens that you care. Listen to them, attend their events and eat dinner together. Sure, some days they’ll resist. But stay involved anyway.
Other ways to offer your teen(s) support:
- Remind them about the importance of having a consistent sleep schedule, being physically active and eating healthy foods daily.
- Urge them to take breaks when needed. Silencing phones, closing laptops and walking away from stressors will allow them to decompress.
- Suggest relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation or counting to 10 before speaking or reacting.
- Encourage them to engage in calming activities such as listening to music, spending time in nature or talking to a trusted friend.
- Show them how to divide overwhelming tasks and assignments into manageable portions.
- Support them in finding healthy social networks so they can connect with positive role models and peers.
- Let them watch your cues so they can learn how to navigate rough days.
- Talk with a health care professional if your teen is overwhelmed by stress or talks about self-harm or thoughts of suicide.
Understand your teen(s) stress
Teens undergo complex mental, physical and social growth. They also start to seek more independence and establish their identities in preparation for adulthood.
It’s important to remember that many teens are coping with:
- Body changes: Worries about their personal appearance; fluctuating hormones; uncomfortableness of developing too early or too late
- Social stress: Frustrations with friends; peer pressure; not fitting in or being the new kid at school
- More responsibilities: Athletics; part-time jobs; challenging academic course loads, college applications
- Shifting family life: Seeking independence from parents; illness or death of a loved one; living in an unsafe environment or neighborhood
In addition to common stressors, teens today are confronting serious issues such as sexual harassment and school gun violence — not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic that’s taking a mental and physical toll on many.
Face your stress, too
Being the parent of a teen isn’t all gloom and doom. The teen years are also filled with great times and lifelong memories.
When going through the tough times, however, know that your mental health is also important. Modeling healthy behaviors and seeking professional help for yourself sets a good example. These efforts will benefit you and your teen. So, take a deep breath and be kind to yourself. Remember, they won’t be teenagers forever.