6 Ways to Beat Teen Stress


By: , – Nicole Sprinkle, Woman's Day
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For Amy Scheibe, tolerating meltdowns didn't end after her son, Bo, graduated from toddlerhood. When he was 10 years old, he started having serious fits of screaming and sobbing that he wasn't good enough for his parents. After one particularly bad incident, she and Bo ended up cuddled on the couch, where he finally admitted that he missed the way things used to be. "You don't tickle me anymore," he said. Turns out Bo was simply going through a typical—but stressful—developmental hurdle: the desire to become more independent while still yearning for a little parental hand-holding.
In the years leading up to and during puberty, hormonal surges are a lot like biological fireworks, skyrocketing even little problems into big explosions. And your kid has no idea how to handle them. In fact, research suggests the region of the brain involved in planning, organizing and making decisions—all things that help us cope with stress—is still developing during puberty. That's why we shouldn't expect kids to always have the best judgment or react to pressure well. But they can learn the best way to address and manage it.

Check out these six common tween and teen stressors—submitted from real moms via e-mail and Facebook—and smart ways to overcome them.
Friend Stress

My 13-year-old daughter's group of friends is wealthy. While we're financially comfortable, we can't afford all the expensive stuff that these kids have. My daughter broke down in tears recently when I told her I couldn't get her the Lululemon hoodie the other girls are wearing. What can I do to make her feel less pressured to have material things?

Ask her questions like, "Do you really want someone to like you because of your clothes?" and "What if next week the hoodie is out and leather jackets are in?" You might even share some of your own experiences. She should come to realize you can't use things to keep true friends. But let's face it: "Sometimes kids do need to feel like they're part of the pack," says Dorothy Stubbe, M.D., program director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center. If you can't buy that hoodie, make your daughter aware that you empathize with her. Try saying, "I know you want to be like your friends, and the hoodie is really cool, but right now it's more than I'm comfortable paying." If you think the hoodie is important—maybe she missed the last trend or is having a particularly bad month—look for it on eBay or at a discount store or site. Or if she has an allowance or a job, let her chip in.
My 12-year-old son has a developmental disability that leads to problems making friends at school. He's being picked on—and therefore is someone to keep away from. I've considered homeschooling, but it would be too difficult. How can I help him fit in more easily?
Start by talking to the student counselor or school psychologist about socialization groups. These can be small, adult-supervised environments, like a special lunch group, where your tween can meet other kids having trouble making friends. Sometimes schools will even pair your child up with an older teen "buddy"—a mentor who may have dealt with similar problems. You can bolster his self-esteem too. Is he good at art? Enroll him in an art class on the weekend. Does he like lending a hand? Talk to his teacher about a job he can do. Encourage the friendships he does have and talk to him about why kids can be cruel. "In my practice, I try to make children understand that the teasing usually has nothing to do with them," says Arden Greenspan, a New York City-based family psychotherapist and author of What Do You Expect? She's a Teenager! "These children may be feeling confused, hurt or angry from a home situation and are just looking for an easy target."
School Stress
The transition from elementary school to middle school has been difficult for my son, who now has multiple teachers. That means numerous projects, often with similar due dates. He's struggling with time management and procrastination. How can I help him handle it all and not feel anxious about what he has to do?
Let's be fair. We moms can barely keep our handbags organized! No surprise then that tweens in the midst of major cognitive development might have trouble keeping track of what's in their bookbags. As long as you've ruled out potential issues like ADHD and the workload doesn't seem unrealistic, try coming up with a game plan together. First, make sure he has a workspace free of distractions. "Usually when I look into these situations, I find that the bedroom is more like a playground," says Michael Brody, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist and author ofSeductive Screens: Children's Media—Past, Present and Future. Make sure he has a quiet, uncluttered space (that means no screens or phones on) to work in. "You may also need to adjust your child's schedule, even if that means scaling down extracurriculars," says Dr. Brody. When your child is assigned a project, immediately ask him if he understands what's expected of him and if he requires any special resources (supplies, trips to do research). If he seems unclear, ask him to double-check with his teacher. For big projects, try setting up a time line. For instance, Monday, pick a topic. Tuesday, do an outline. Wednesday, read up and do research. Check out pbskids.org/itsmylife/school/time for tips on managing busy lives from tween and teen mentors, a weekly homework planner and a journal.
My daughter was one of the smartest kids in her middle school. Now that she's in high school, the competition has gotten more intense and she's not the top dog anymore. She compares herself constantly to kids who are doing better and puts herself down when she doesn't get an A. How can my overachiever give herself a break?
"For starters, listen and empathize with your child. Then find out what getting the best grade in the class means to her," says Henry J. Gault, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Does she equate being number one with getting into the right college? If so, point out that colleges are interested in well-rounded people, not just the valedictorian. Once you've figured out her motivation, get her to come up with other ways to feel good about herself. For instance, you might say: "Maybe you didn't get the highest mark, but you did very well—and you had fun researching the subject." Another useful tactic for getting overachievers to lighten up: volunteering to assist kids with disabilities. It takes the focus off them and lets them see kids who are really struggling but still finding happiness.
Click here for more ways to beat teen stress from Family Circle.
More from Family Circle:
How do you help your children overcome stress? 

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    Excellent post! thank you so much for taking the time to post.really needed some stress help and information.
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    - 4/1/2014   2:32:26 AM
  • FRANZ76
    Thanks for sharing, I really love to learn the exact ways on how to help my teenagers defeat stress. Moreover, I want to share something that can help other people understand the good thing about stress appropriately. Thanks - 11/7/2013   4:28:03 AM
    Good article! Seeing your children deal with stress, can itself, be very stressful for a parent. We want to give our kids the tools to develop their own stress management, as well as being a support for them in their transition to adulthood.

    As you often lack influence over the actual stressor, a good idea is to focus on learning your children practical ways of thinking about stress from an early age. Promoting them to see problems as positive challenges, and not only ordeals - instead emphasizing the fun in overcoming something, and being able to problem solve, rather than just having to fight another cause. This way, you can turn stressful situations in to something very developing, and thereby prepare your kids for handling new situations in the future!

    It's a delicate balance, letting your children handle their stress by themselves, but making sure they're not getting overwhelmed. However, as long as they feel that they have support from you as a parent - you're on to a great start.

    Very interesting read!

    Kristoffer from howtohandlestress.info - 10/7/2013   9:35:37 AM
    Good info. I have my 16 yr. Old granddaughter and oh boy what a handful. Think she know everything. - 9/19/2013   6:47:49 PM
  • 3
    I have a lot of issues with my 16 year old son. he is very immature, these tips help, thanks. - 9/18/2013   9:36:06 AM
  • 2
    Good article. I thought we didn't have to worry too much until middle school, but the stress starts early these days! I saw my 8 year old reflected in much of this! - 9/17/2013   9:22:42 AM
    I just looked up luluemon hoodie - holy canoli - where do you live, $108 for a hoodie? I don't care how much money you have, that's crazy talk. Sometimes I think people pay the extra bucks to show that they can. Keeping up with the jones is pretty stressful too if you have to keep it up constantly. - 9/17/2013   6:36:25 AM

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