How to help your too-stressed teen

How to help your too-stressed teen

Spring is a notoriously stressful time for students, and there are ways to tell if your teen is too stressed.


Spring is a notoriously stressful time for students. A certain level of stress is normal, but how can you tell if your teen is toostressed and what can you do to help them?

Watch for these signs of severe stress:

Lack of sleep: Many experts say most teens need at least nine hours of sleep a night. If your youth is consistently staying up late or getting up early for school work, they may be under too much pressure.

Significant change in mood: While it is normal for a teen to experience mood swings, significant and prolonged mood changes — for example, constant irritability in a typically upbeat individual — may indicate severe stress.

No social life or hobbies: Part of the excitement of being a teenager is enjoying friends and developing interests. If a youth is too busy to enjoy these pursuits, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate their schedule.

Significant decrease in grades: A youth who is used to doing well in school but starts to see their grades decrease may double down and try to work even harder. But if stress is the culprit, this will only make the issue worse in the end.

Developing mental and/or physical health issues: You might notice your teen getting sick more often than normal or struggling with chronic fatigue, aches and pains, or mental-health struggles like depression, anxiety or other issues. These are often warning signs of too much stress in their life.

How to reduce stress at home

Help them create a happy study nook: Studying on the bed or the floor can create more tension in the body. Work with your teen to create a space in the home that’s quiet, comfortable and provides proper support to reduce back and neck pain. You also could include some happy items like twinkle lights, fluffy pillows and blankets, and favorite decor.

Consider implementing evening quiet hours if possible: Ask your teen what times in the evening they like to do homework and see if you can work out some house-wide quiet hours on certain nights of the week, especially if they have a test or large project coming up. If you have young children, you could take them to the park, on a walk or to a toy store, or you could let them watch movies on a laptop with earbuds.

Discuss what responsibilities they can let go: If your teen is consistently overwhelmed, they may be involved in too much. Is there a class they are failing that they can push to next semester? Is there an extracurricular activity they’d rather not be involved in? Remind them that while it’s important to work hard, their mental and physical health are more important than perfect grades.

Ask how you can help: Sometimes it’s just this simple: “I notice you have a lot going on and you seem overwhelmed. What can I/we do to help make things easier?” Even if their response is “I don’t know,” your teen will appreciate the offer. You can suggest a few ideas, like going out and doing something fun together for a couple hours on a weekend. Strong bonds between parents/guardians and teens help reduce risky behaviors such as substance misuse.

Say “I love you” and “I’m proud of you” often: Never underestimate the power of these words in a teen’s mind. Youth are under the constant stress of finding their identity, pressure from peers, school work, deciding their interests and more. The support of their parents means a lot, even if they don’t admit it.

Kristie Skaggs is a coalition prevention specialist at OneEighty.

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