Parents and Their Role in Teen Stress
School, peer relationships and family life cause normal stress in a teen's life. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, too much stress can cause problems, such as drug or alcohol use, anxiety and physical symptoms. As a parent of a teen, your actions influence your teen's stress levels and how she manages stress.
As a parent, you face plenty of your own stress, from financial stress and work issues to behavior problems of your teen and conflicts with your spouse. You might think you're the only one dealing with that stress, but your teen feels the effect more than you might realize. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, 14 percent of the teen and tween participants said parent stress doesn't affect them 1. This means the other 86 percent of the study participants felt the effect of parent stress. Whether your teen understands the reason for your stress, you might contribute to her stress levels if you don't handle your own problems well.
Teen Stress Sources
You can't eliminate all sources of stress, but some of your decisions for the family can add to the stress. The AACAP lists unsafe surroundings, moving, switching schools, and parent separation or divorce as potential causes of teen stress. While not always avoidable, the effect of a decision on your teen should be a primary consideration before making a decision. Moving for a better job opportunity benefits the family, but relocating frequently without any real value can negatively affect your teen's stress levels. In some cases, either option adds stress for your teen. For example, she'll feel the stress whether you separate from your spouse or stay together and fight constantly.
The support you give your teen can affect her stress levels. The AACAP suggests staying involved in her positive activities, such as sports, and listening attentively to your teen when she speaks to you. You can also support her by watching for signs of excessive stress, such as withdrawal from activities, anxiety or aggression. Identifying the stress symptoms early enables you to help your teen deal with stress before it becomes overwhelming.
According to the American Psychological Association, your child learns how to handle stress by watching you handle stress 1. If your coping skills in stressful circumstances are lacking, your teen won't learn how to deal with the stress in her life. For example, if you reach for a drink when your stress levels soar, your teen is likely to pick up on it. In addition to modeling healthy stress management, you can positively affect your teen's stress level by teaching her specific stress coping skills, such as:
- using relaxation techniques
- improving time management
- being assertive
- stepping away from stress with relaxing activities
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