This week alone I sat with five different teenagers all describing intense anxiety, worrying, stomach problems, and problems sleeping. Upon further exploration it was revealed that most of this worry comes from school and friends. Did you know that 84% of teenagers describe themselves as overwhelmed and suffer psychological consequences because of it. So how do you as a parent encourage excellence from your teenager without adding to this pressure, and how can you help relieve the stress they already feel?
1. Listen: This is the number one thing you can do to help your teen manage their stress. Listen empathetically without trying to fix their problems. Also, avoid telling them how they could have done it differently. Try to stay away from statements such as “Well, if you had only…. you wouldn’t be in this position.” Chances are they already know, and telling them now will not help their current position. Say things like “I know what its like to have that big of a deadline looming,” or “that sounds like its really getting to you”. Further you want to make statements and ask questions that encourage further discussion from your teen.
2. Encourage healthy eating and sleeping patterns: Teens who eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly can manage stress with less psychological consequences. While I know that you can’t control what they do, you can make sure nutritious food is available to them, and model a healthy lifestyle yourself.
3. Watch your expectations: Make sure your teen knows you expect excellence and not perfection. Perfection is toxic and can lead to stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
4. Encourage them to “be vague”: So many teens come to me with one plan for their life, make valedictorian, get into (Insert prestigious school here), and become a (insert high power job here). While its great to have a plan and goals, they need to be flexible. There are things outside of their control for all of those goals so they are not appropriate to have. Encourage them to have goals that are only within their control. Strive for excellence with their grades, get into a good school, and major in something they enjoy and will be able to provide them with a future.
Making these small changes with your teen can help them lead a balanced and less stressed life, giving them less anxiety and irritability. A win win for everyone!