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Coping With Teen Stress

written by: Bonnie Taylor • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 1/5/2012

Teenagers are exposed to difficult life situations on an almost constant basis. The very concept of being a teenager provides the perfect recipe for stress and the affects this has on the body can be just as dangerous for teens as they are for older generations.

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    Very Common Occurrence

    A survey of stress and related problems in teens conducted by the City of Baltimore concluded that one third of teenagers experience at least one episode of stress on a weekly basis.

    The survey determined that the top causes of stress in teens are; school work, parents, romantic relationships, problems with friends, and siblings. This study also determined that girls experience more stress than boys and teenagers use both healthy and unhealthy methods of coping with stress.

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    Uncertainty And Lack of Preparation

    The two primary reasons for school work stress are uncertainty about complex assignments and a lack of preparation. Parents can help reduce school work stress by reviewing homework assignments and monitoring study time.

    Teens need to be taught time management skills. They don’t come naturally to everyone. Following the principles of project management to structure school work will ensure preparedness and instill confidence in the end result.

    Parental badgering, unreasonable or lofty expectations, and the desire to make parents proud are key stress points for teens. Teens also develop “empathetic stress" because they are very in tune with the emotional state of their parents. When parents stress over financial issues, work issues, and spousal relationships, teens absorb these problems and make them their own. This “empathetic stress" happens even when parents don’t discuss their concerns around their children.

    Parental stress can be reduced through two way dialogue. Teens want to be heard and consoled. Parents can also support teens with the stress associated to siblings by providing equal attention to each child, mediating sibling disputes, and implementing conflict resolution strategies.

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    Romantic Relationships

    Romantic relationships are previously uncharted territory for teens and they tend to seek advice on the subject from other teens. It is important for them to feel comfortable discussing dating issues with their parents and parents need to resist the urge to over react. Allowing the desire to protect offspring to over shadow the ability to provide sound advice will close the door to communication.

    Teens are learning critical relationship skills that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. They need to experience both love and heartbreak in order to gain knowledge through personal experience.

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    Peer Pressure

    Problems with friends can include peer pressure, bullying, the desire to be popular, and those on again /off again friendships that are too common during adolescence. Teens are learning how to develop relationships and find their niche in the world. There is no way to eliminate the stress associated with teen society but parents should be able to distinguish between expected conflict and dangerous situations.

    Bullying and peer pressure can lead to depression, low self esteem, eating disorders, and emotional instability. Parents and school officials need to partner and react quickly and with zero tolerance to protect teens from physical and emotion abuse by their peers. Parents should request a copy of the schools bullying policy guidelines to insure that they are sound and being followed.

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    Coping With Challenges

    It is important to understand that some stress is good. The stress response can prepare us to face challenges and keeps us on our toes. The physical, emotional and mental changes that take place during these formative years directly impact the teenage view of life situations leading to insecurity, confusion and fear.

    When faced with the unique challenges of teen life, it is essential that teenagers make wise choices with regard to stress relief. Stress is cited as the leading causes of teen substance abuse, using drugs and alochol to provide a temporary escape from the pressure. Some teens cope with stress by sleeping in excess. Others choose to not deal with it all allowing fear and axiety to build up to its boiling point.

    The key is to cope with stress in healthy ways. Teens are better equipped to handle stress when they get the right amount of sleep – about 10 hours per day and eat high energy foods like whole grain fiber, protein, and dairy. Regular exercise keeps the mind sharp and the body fit to handle crisis situations. Exercise also provides an outlet for pent up energy and can relieve tension.

    Using strategic planning methodology to identify the root cause of an issue, create a plan to address the issue and set a timeline for improvement provides teens with a sense of control. Finally, teens need a solid support structure. They need people in their lives that listen to them, encourage them, and empathize rather than dismiss their feelings.