Tweens Teens & Twenties

Tips for Helping Teens Manage Stress

By Tanni Haas, Ph.D. | Contributor

Being a teen is stressful. Teens are expected to do well in school and to fit in with friends. On top of everything else, there’s the awkwardness of developing physically on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. 

The good news is that there’s much parents can do to help ease their stress. Here’s what the experts suggest:

Create a More Accepting Home Environment

Parents often think that because teens gravitate toward their friends, they no longer play an important role in their lives; nothing could be further from the truth. Parents are very important to teens, and especially when it comes to helping them manage stress. To really be there for your teens, make sure that your interactions are calm and inviting. “The goal,” says sociologist Dr. Christine Carter, author of The New Adolescence and other parenting books, “is for them to feel seen and heard by you.” Clinical psychologist Dr. David Lowenstein agrees that parents should do whatever they can to create a stress-free haven at home: “When your teen feels accepted and peaceful at home,” he or she will be better prepared to tackle the outside world.” 

Promote Self-Reflection

Marthe Teixeira, a life and wellness coach, says that it’s important not to “jump to conclusions or give advice right away” when you help your teens deal with stress. Instead, help them reflect on how they can manage stress on their own. 

Teach them how to break down a complex situation into smaller, more manageable parts.

 For example, if they’re stressed about a huge school project, have them estimate how long the project will take to complete, and then ask them to spread the work over a number of days to create a more realistic and less stressful schedule. Share your own experiences with an issue they’re facing. “Share how you successfully managed the issue,” says Dr. Chinwe Williams, a professional counselor, and “then allow your teen to explore his or her own thoughts and feelings related to what you’ve shared.” 

Be A Role Model

If your teens are going to learn from your experiences, you need to be a role model. “The best way to help your teen manage their stress levels,” says pediatrician Dr. Stacy Leatherwood Cannon, “is to model healthy coping strategies yourself” or, as Ms. Teixeira neatly sums it up: “practice what you preach.” 

Encourage Physical Activity 

Encourage them to engage in lots of physical activity. “Physical activity,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Erlanger Turner, “is one of the most effective stress busters.” He especially recommends activities that they can do together with others. “Whether teens are into team sports, or prefer kayaking or rollerblading with a friend or two,” Dr. Turner says, “they’re more likely to have fun – and keep at it – if they do it with friends.” 

Experts agree that teens should get the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep at night.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Physical activity is bound to make your teens exhausted. Life coach Pamela Willsey says that “a good night’s sleep is one of the best stress-reducing remedies that exist.” Experts agree that the best ways to ensure that teens get the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep at night is to have them keep a consistent sleep schedule, limit afternoon naps and turn off all electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime. The so-called blue light that electronic devices emit sends a signal to their brains that suppresses the production of melatonin and prevents them for feeling tired. 

Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences & Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.

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