by: Nichole Hardy, LGPC
I often work with adolescent clients who are confused about what to do with their emotions when they are highly stressed. They struggle with being overscheduled, sleep-deprived, and overstimulated by the information at their fingertips. Adolescents today will often use technology as an escape however that leads to hours of being super focused on unrealistic images of perfectionism. This can have a hazardous impact over a long period of time. Today teenagers are already questioning themselves and where they fit in this world. In a world where they are told through media images and social pressures you have to fit into a mold to be accepted. How do adolescents find stability in their forever-changing world? According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, everyone wants to belong or be a part of a community. Below are some tips for parents to support their teens through stressful times.
Check-in with your teen daily and ask about their day, even though adolescents sometimes tend to be closed off. Do not be discouraged or give up. Your teen is listening attentively even if they do not appear so. Often adolescents state that their parents are not understanding and do not listen. Try to listen attentively without interruption or judgment. This creates a safe space for your teen to vent or release some of the stress. When time permits, take a ride in the car, go for a walk with your teen. Use these casual times to check in and talk freely about what may be going on in your teen’s life. The check-in allows you as the parent to tap into your teen’s mood on a regular basis. This gives them a consistent time to touch base or open up about something that may be on their minds and causing stress.
PACK YOUR PATIENCE
This is a challenging age to maneuver through as a parent. As your teen is attempting to assert their independence, you want to set boundaries. Be sure to be consistent with your words and actions. Teens will push the boundaries but consistency is key. Understand that adolescents are in a developmental place where they are questioning everything in the world, including you. During the adolescent years, they are highly emotional, and if you are not careful your teen will take you on the emotional roller coaster with them. When having a discussion with your teen be sure you are in touch with your emotions. Make sure you are not in a high-stress mood or rushing off to the next task. As parents, we are very busy and are juggling a lot, so it is important to be in a space where you are emotionally available. If you are a person who cannot answer questions right away because your teen needs an immediate answer, discuss with your teen when would be a good time to express concerns. If you are redirecting a specific behavior, keep a calm voice so that you can stay level-headed and not go into an emotional spiral with your teen. Remember to restate facts and explain consequences based on expectations that work for you, as the parent.
SET GOALS TOGETHER
Setting goals together with your teen helps to model what it is like to take healthy steps to achieve goals. Demonstrating healthy ways to plan and achieve goals while maintaining open communication is key. A great activity to work on with your teen is a vision board. This activity not only gives your adolescent a concrete plan for obtaining personal goals but also assists you to see what areas may be challenging for your adolescent. This activity demonstrates that achievements are attainable while giving your teen a connection to you. During this stage of young adulthood, sometimes it is difficult to connect. This a great activity to connect with your teen and model your own goals as a parent.
It is sometimes difficult for teens to identify their emotions. Being self-reflective is a skill that most adults learn through a variety of life events. Adolescents are challenged with identifying their feelings of sadness, anger, joy, and disappointment. Unfortunately, adolescents that I have worked with share that they are told their feelings are trivial compared to adult worries. However, this is so far from the truth in the teen world. What about the social pressures from school, sports, and friends? How does a teen in today’s society manage to balance what is realistic and what is out of their control? If the adolescents do not successfully balance the two this can cause severe anxiety, depression, and host other emotional strongholds. Encourage your teen to express their emotions in a respectful way and not act on impulse. Through practice and modeling your teen can eventually come to the conclusion that they can manage their emotions.
Teens spend a great deal of time on technology devices for school, social interaction and entertainment. Creating a technology plan for the family helps to model for your teen healthy ways to use technology. Also, coming up with alternative activities during “tech downtime” is important. Activities such as; exercise, board games, eating out as a family, watching movies, shopping, sports, and reading are few activity suggestions you can follow but the overall goal is to bond with your teen so that when they are distressed they know you are a safe place. There is no perfect solution but talking to your teen is the best way to bond during this developmental journey.