How to Help Your Teenage Daughter Manage Stress
Have you noticed your teenage daughter having a difficult time managing stress? In some regards, teen stress can be just as overwhelming and damaging as adult stress, especially if the person doesn't have any outlets to relieve stress. It may be hard to tell when your teenage daughter is stressed, and she may not tell you (or even know how to label what's she's feeling). Learn to look for the signs and do your best to support her through unavoidable life stress.
Identifying Your Child's Stress
Understand the most common stressors for teens.Yes, teens get stressed out, even though the causes might be slightly different than for adults. Teens are not only encountering changes in their bodies and minds, but also must deal with greater responsibility at home and at school. Consider these possible causes for your teenage daughter's stress:
- school work
- parental expectation to perform well academically and athletically
- self-esteem issues
- lack of sleep
- sibling rivalry
- physical changes in appearance
- onset/ coping with menstruation
- psychological changes
- being unprepared
- peer pressure
Recognize the signs that your child is too stressed.Everyone feels stressed at some point. Having trouble focusing or concentrating, feeling nervous or anxious, experiencing changes in her sleep and eating patterns, and procrastinating are all indicators that your child may be overly stressed. Your child may also neglect responsibilities and feel tired often.
- Stress may also show up in your child's perceptions of herself. She may say things like "I'm stupid", "No one likes me" or "I hate my body/face/thighs". Take note of these statements and strive to help your child see herself how you see her.
Don't ignore your child's stress.In some cases, stressors may be affecting the whole family, such as a move to another state or a divorce. Try to be understanding and empathetic to your children even if you, too, are having a hard time. Think of stress like a backpack with a few bricks inside. You attempt to walk up a big hill carrying the backpack. Even though the weight of the backpack doesn't change, the load becomes harder to bear over time. Stress works the same way.
- Chronic or prolonged stress can take a toll on your child's (and yours) overall functioning and even make her sick. Researchers have linked stress to increased anxiety, hypertension, headaches, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.
Getting Your Daughter to Talk
Empathize with your daughter.As you aim to help your child cope with stress, go all the way back to how you felt at her age. Although you may not have dealt with the same life experiences, it can still be helpful if you try to remember what it's like to be in her shoes. If you'd like, you may even approach the topic by sharing an anecdote about a difficult experience that you got through at her age.
Point out her strengths.Teens are faced with incredible social pressures. The internet, TV, social networks, all cause teens to compare themselves to one another. Your teen may be overwhelmed because she has not yet discovered her natural strengths and abilities. If you helped her uncover these characteristics, she might feel more capable of managing in everyday life.
- Remind your child of something she's good at. For instance, if she's a musician, you might tell her how amazed you are at her discipline and patience to learn a piece. If she does community service you can highlight her giving and compassionate nature.
Talk with her, not at her.Parents often make the mistake of lecturing to their kids when they make mistakes or experience setbacks. Remember that although you may be disappointed, your child probably is, too. Offer support rather than nagging or guilt-trips. Your teen will appreciate this tactic, and maybe even open up more to you.
Listen, really listen.On occasion, you might have caught yourself distracted or not really paying attention when your child is talking. Many teens clam up and avoid sharing with their parents. If your daughter does this, it may be because she does not feel heard. Tips for actively listening to your teen include:
- Give her your full attention. Save important discussions for a time when you will not be interrupted. Put away your phone and turn off the TV.
- Give her eye contact but sit/stand beside her if possible. Sometimes, adolescents are intimidated by face-to-face conversations. Aim to hold conversations while you both are cooking, cleaning, or performing other activities to ease any intimidation.
- Reflect her emotions. If your child is sad, your face should exhibit concern. If she is happy, your face should be filled with joy or excitement. Try to match your expressions with her emotional presentation.
- Be mindful of your body language. Just as face-to-face contact can be intimidating, so can a parent with crossed arms and a sneer. Sit/stand with your arms at your sides with a relaxed posture and oriented in her direction.
Avoid judging or blowing things out of proportion.While your child is talking, refrain from 'parenting' or trying to tell her what to do; just offer her a listening ear. When she's done talking you might ask, "Would you like me to offer some advice, or were you really just needing to talk?" If your child asks for advice at this time, offer it in a gentle and nonjudgmental manner.
Teaching Stress Management
Model healthy behaviors.Consider this quote: "Children close their ears to advice, but open their eyes to example". You can tell your teenage daughter again and again what she needs to do to appropriately cope with stress, but your example will motivate her to do them. Sure enough, you can model healthy behaviors and still have your daughter choose unhealthy behaviors. However, modeling is a great way to practice what you preach.
- Be cautious of how your respond to stress in front of your teenage daughter. Do you fly off the handle when you are frustrated? If you do, she might inadvertently pick up this behavior.
- Take the time to identify and manage your own feelings, and your child will have a great model for emotional responsibility in her home.
- Modeling healthy behaviors also involves watching how you speak about your body or others' bodies. Teen girls frequently develop negative body images due to references they hear at home. Strive to foster an environment that focuses on loving your body (and your daughter's) for all it does, instead of how it looks or how much it weighs.
Develop a family tagline.Just as businesses often do, you can create a phrase that builds your child's self-confidence and reminds her of where she comes from. This could be displayed somewhere in your home, or simply repeated to your children so that they understand the family values. Such a motto also gives her something to ground herself with during stressful times.
- Examples for a family motto include "Try, try again", "Return with honor", or "Work hard and be grateful."
Sign her up for a sport or engage in family sporting activities.Regular exercise can help your teen manage stress, improve cognitive functioning (i.e. better focusing and concentration at school), and fend off depression. In an age when American teens and adults spend a fair amount of their time in sedentary behaviors - watching TV, browsing the internet, or playing addictive games on smart phone - it is extremely important to plan in exercise.
- Ask your teen to choose from a few active extracurricular activities that she may be interested in. Recommendations may include gymnastics, soccer, track, basketball, dance, or swimming.
- You can also reinforce these healthy behaviors by adopting a few family activities to enjoy together. Go for hikes on the weekend, ride bikes as a group, or play tag in your backyard.
Make sure she eats a balanced diet.Food can have a surprising impact on your daughter's mood and susceptibility to stress. What's more, teenagers often react to stress by engaging in unhealthy behaviors like bingeing on junk food or drinking alcohol. Clear the pantry of processed foods with refined carbohydrates and empty calories (sodas, snack cakes, potato chips). Provide plenty of complex carbs like fruits, veggies, and whole grains with lean meats, eggs, and nuts.
- Caffeine can exacerbate stress, but teens often turn to it to get through finals or long nights of studying. Encourage your teen to drink more water and avoid excessive amounts of caffeine, especially later in the afternoon as it affects sleep.
Emphasize the importance of sleep.When your teenage daughter's schedule is jam-packed with activities and projects, sleep may be the first thing to go. However, sleep is essential in stress management, and it helps her body to stimulate hormones for growth, appetite, muscle repair, and memory consolidation.Missing out on sleep hurts overall health and development.
- Talk to your daughter about cutting down on some of her obligations if they are detracting from her getting enough sleep. Cut off the television and electronic devices a few hours before bed, and limit caffeine. She should aim to get 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye each night.
Buy her a planner.Having a crammed schedule is one culprit to your child's stress. Purchase a planner so that she can write down all of her activities and become better organized. Talk with her and see if she needs to give up some activities so that she has enough time to relax and sleep. A planner can also help your daughter stay on top of homework and tests, since forgetting assignments or procrastinating could also be a source of her stress.
See if she likes to journal.Writing all her thoughts and feelings down on paper can be a terrific way for your daughter to unload and debrief during stressful periods in her life. Visit a stationery store and have her select a journal or diary that appeals to her. Encourage her to write daily to get the most out of this activity.
- In addition to allowing her to unload problems and concerns, regular journaling can also help your daughter recognize patterns of stress. Perhaps she constantly feels stressed near the end of each week because she has saved all her assignments to the last minute. Or, maybe she is really stressed during her special time of the month, so she needs to engage in regular self-care and monitoring to get her through these times.
- As your daughter picks up on patterns of behavior, journaling can also be a great way for her to problem-solve ways to fight stress and improve her mood.
Remind her to take time out for fun.Teens are going through many changes and taking on greater responsibility. However, amidst schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and chores, your child should still schedule in time to relax and have fun.
- Encourage your child to participate in a hobby that she enjoys (one that you will not pressure her about) and allow her regular opportunities to spend time with friends. Make an effort to provide frequent family nights where the whole family can let their hair down and have a good time.
QuestionDoes this only work for daughters?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, it works for sons as well. Though some of the tips are aimed at females, the majority work with either gender.Thanks!
QuestionIs it possible to cure stress?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt's not possible to cure stress, but you can learn to manage it.Thanks!
QuestionI appreciate these tips, but how about for preteens?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerHave her join a sports team or activity club. Make sure she has hobbies apart from school. Take her out to lunch sometimes just for fun, and ask her about her life. Encourage her to keep a journal, this is a great way to relieve stress.Thanks!
- If your child seems to be responding negatively to stress (i.e. not eating, not sleeping, not fulfilling responsibilities) for an extended period of time, you may need to connect her with mental health professional who she can talk to about stressful situations and develop helpful coping strategies.
Video: How Do You Handle Teenagers? | Sadhguru
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