There is one thing that all parents are told about when their precious newborns are snuffling through the night feeds and keeping them up at night: just you wait until they’re teenagers.
Firstly, I’m not a fan of that phrase because it’s peddled like a funny warning. As if a teenager being stressful and rebellious is a fun thing that parents should go through ‘just because we did’ – and it stinks. The older generations shouldn’t be laughing at the struggles of the younger ones as they navigate parenting. Every single one of us went through teenage years and puberty, so we should have some empathy for our children about to go through it, too. Supporting a teenager as they cope with hormonal changes, learn to understand who they are and navigate friendships and relationships isn’t easy, but as parents, it’s our job.
It’s now up to you to help your teenager to find their way through to adulthood successfully with as few mental health and physical health issues as possible. There will be tears and tempers, confusion and fear, and you’re the adult who will help them through every single stage. You’ll go through the phase of your thirteen year old begging for helix earrings and a belly ring. You might go through the stage of your sixteen year old getting a tattoo by lying about her age. How you handle these things will either make your teenager shrink from you, or elevate you as being an epic parent. Teenagers carry around a lot of issues and it’s why there is a high rate of teenage suicide and panic among that age group. Below, we’ve put together a list of ways that you can deal with your stressed out teenager in a positive and gentle manner.
- Figuring the source. The first thing that you have to do together with your teenager is figure out the source of the stress. It’s not always easy to do that and there is every chance that your teenager won’t actually know what’s up in the first place. In this case, the chances are that their stress is triggered by the changes in hormones and they don’t actually know how to handle all these new feelings flooding in. The stress could also be exam related, friendship related, study pressure, romantic feelings that they just don’t get. There are a million and one things that can affect the way in which your teenager feels stressed, but if you can get to the bottom of it, you can untangle it all and feel better with them.
- ‘Do you need me to listen or problem solve?’. This is possibly the single most important sentence that you could utter to your teenager when you sit down to talk through their stress. Letting them talk it out is one thing but if they don’t want you to solve their problems, you just need to listen. Give your full attention and make them feel valid and supported in their worries. Don’t interrupt them and don’t offer solutions unless they ask for them. Ask them if they want to hear what you would do or not – otherwise it just looks like you’re telling them what to do.
- Don’t rush. There could well be more than one source of stress going on for your teenager right now, and there is no need to talk out or solve every problem at the same time. Take it one step at a time and make sure that they understand that you are a solid and a constant on which they can rely through their stress. No teenager wants to feel ignored; they want to feel seen. You can do that when you make sure that you’re not rushing them.
- Plan together. Once you’ve heard their worries, heard their stresses, talk about pathways. Right now they see a brick wall ahead of them, but as the adult you will know there is a way around or over the brick wall. Work with them to create a plan that will put them over that wall with as little issue as possible. If you can help them to see the pathway they could take, they’ll be able to relax. A plan can help you to reduce their stress and anxiety.
- Offer comfort. Much like when they were tiny babies, teenagers sensory seek. Offering physical comfort in the form of a hug, a pat on the back or a hand held tightly can help to ground them. Saying out loud that you can see them and you acknowledge them is so important, and you’re showing that you love and care for your teenager when you do.
- Help them to relax. Taking your teenage daughter to a spa day or for her first pedicure and making it a regular thing is going to really help you to bond together and help to keep their mind off of their schoolwork and issues with friendships. You can take your teenage son to blow off some steam at a golf range or an adventure trak, too, but don’t discount his need for pampering. He can still join in on a spa day, too!
- Applying grounding techniques. Did you know that you can help your teenager to ground themselves? If you work together on grounding techniques like these, you can help them to relax and unwind as much as possible at home.
- Encourage better sleep. Teenagers – like babies – need a lot of sleep. They can feel less stressed and more awake on the day when they get a decent night of sleep. You don’t necessarily need to implement a bedtime, but make sure that bedrooms are mostly screen-free – no phone through the night, for example!
Get some support. There is nothing shameful about seeking additional support for your teenager if you’re concerned about them and their mental and physical health. There is a whole world of support out there for you and your family and you just have to seek it.