Teenagers grow up and eventually become the parents of teenagers! The circle of life is such that we forget, often with some relief, what it was like to deal with the stressful challenges of our changing bodies, academic expectations and social interactions when WE were teenagers. Cindy Glass, Director and Co-founder of Step Up Education Centres explains “The reality is that long-term, unchecked stress can lead to the greater challenges of anxiety, depression and negative behavioural choices in our teenagers.”
Cindy looks at this important subject in greater detail…
1. What causes stress in teenagers?
• Teenagers are complex, over-thinkers by nature. It is not surprising then, that what may seem to us to be a minor challenge, could indeed be a cause of debilitating stress in our teenager!
• Negative body, and self-image.
• School pressures, these can be social or academic.
• Making mistakes (including poor behaviour choices) and the fear of failure.
• Financial or personal concerns arising from their families.
2. What are the signs of excessive stress in teenagers?
• They start sleeping too much or too little.
• They experience panic attacks.
• They can start acting aggressively or withdrawing from activities that they once enjoyed.
• Fatigue that affects normal activities.
• Stressed teenagers tend to eat way too much or way too little. This would be out-of-character.
• Regular mood swings, crying and angry episodes can indicate excessive stress.
3. How can you help?
• Non-judgemental communication is key! Aim to listen to understand! Listen to support and help them find positive solutions. Challenges are a part of teenage life and cannot be avoided, just make sure your teen knows that you are the go-to person they need!
• Encourage your teen to exercise regularly and to make healthy nutrition choices. A healthy, fit body can weather many-a-stressful-situation.
• Teach emotional intelligence skills: self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, empathy and social skills are essential in developing positive body- and self- image. These skills will also help your teenager navigate the complexities of interpersonal relationships!
• Know that mistakes are inevitable. Speak of mistakes being learning opportunities and help your teen to find positive solutions.
• Discuss perspectives. It is essential to understand that everyone is coming from his/her perspective and that, so often, upsetting encounters with others is as a result of their experiences and perspectives of life in that moment. Remember, if you have not caused the negative encounter, it is not your stuff!
4. When would you need to seek expert help?
• Seek immediate professional help if your child is having suicidal thoughts.
• Seek help if the symptoms of stress are not subsiding or if they are getting worse.
Cindy explains “Stress can be a two-edged sword. It can motivate us to positive action, and it can result in potentially serious emotional and physical challenges if it becomes long-term and excessive. Watch for the latter and aim at seeking ways to ease the effects of negative stress in your teenagers!”