MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on October 30th, 2017, 0 Comments

Three Things You Can Do to Help Your Teen Be More Stress Resistant

Teens have a lot to juggle. And now that school is in full swing, that juggling just got harder. With each successive year, their schoolwork becomes more abstract and demanding, athletic teams become more competitive and selective, and we parents tend to apply more pressure and get harder to please.

Try This
Although there are no good quick fixes for curing teens’ stress, there are lots of things that can help them be more stress resistant. And some of these are things that we parents can do. Below are three that made a big difference in our home.

Have some relaxing, hassle-free zones.
Consider making times and places in your home that are free havens from stress and anxiety. Family meals are a good place to start. Although as kids get older and more independent they tend to eat fewer meals with their family, research indicates that participating in family meals can improve teens’ physical and mental health.¹ Plus many teens say that eating dinner together is one of their favorite family activities. And most teens who participate in family dinners say that the interaction and togetherness are the best part of the meal.

Learn to listen to things that make you uncomfortable.
Teens want to be heard, and it’s easy to listen when what they’re reporting is positive and finished. But when the issues are stressful and unresolved, we parents sometimes get anxious and want to make everything okay. That’s when our quick advice (It’ll be fine. Don’t worry.) and our desire to solve the problem for them (Here’s what you need to do…) can get in the way.

To help your teen explore whatever they’re struggling with, without taking over their problem, try:

– Feel like talking…?

– What do you think…?

– Tell me more about…

Remind them of their past successes.
Sometimes we can help our stressed-out teens best by acting as historians for them. When they’re feeling anxious –whether it’s about an upcoming performance, competition, or test – we can listen to their worries and then remind them of their past successes under similar emotional circumstances.² To give you an idea of what that might sound like, here’s an example from my years as my daughter’s historian:

I know you’re nervous about the dance recital tomorrow. But I feel certain that you will get through it successfully. Remember last year. Before the recital started, you were uncertain. You were afraid you’d forget something or even fall. You had a stomachache and your throat hurt just as they do now. But you danced exquisitely, and when it was over you talked about how much you enjoy performing for an audience. You can do this – just as you have before.

You don’t need to work on these strategies all at once. Pick one that feels most natural to you and start there. Progress in any of these areas will help your teen feel stronger, more confident,and more connected to you.

Sources and Resources
2. Riera M. Staying connected to your teenager. Cambridge, MA: De Capo Press of Perseus Books Group; 2003.

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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on October 9th, 2017, 0 Comments

A Dozen Things Your Teen Can Do to Bounce Back When Stress Strikes

Being a teen today is full of pressures to perform and meet expectations. For high achieving kids, the pressure can be even more intense. These teens have to deal with their own internal pressure to achieve. And as these kids get older they’re also under more and more external pressure to perform.

One high achieving sixteen-year-old¹put it this way:
I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. When I was little I was in a spelling bee at school. … I really wanted to win. I don’t know why. There was no prize. No one cared. My parents didn’t even know I was in it. I just felt this weight on my shoulders. Like I just had to win.

And once you start over-achieving, people expect things from you. … The world. Teachers. Parents. Other kids.

To constantly perform at a high level is risky business. There’s the fear of failure to contend with as well as the real possibility of failure. Because the more kids achieve, the more likely it is that they’ll eventually fail at something. So even theses good kinds of risks – risks that can lead to achievement, self-discovery, and confidence – take a toll on kids.

Sometimes teens can get so busy trying to deal with all the stressors in their lives that they don’t realize how they are changing. That’s why it’s important that we are sensitive to the amount of pressure in our teens’ lives and monitor their behavior so we’ll know when they’re reaching their limit.

This begins with knowing what your teen looks and sounds like when they’re on stress overload. Although this varies from teen to teen, below is a list of some of the common signs²you’ll want to look for when you’re monitoring your teen.

Your teen may be reaching their limit if they…

– Increasingly complain of headaches, stomachaches, sore muscles, or tiredness.
– Are withdrawing from family, friends, and activities.
– Change sleeping habits – have insomnia or are sleeping a lot more than usual.
– Change eating habits – wanting to eat all the time or are “too busy to eat.”
– Are teary or crying more often.
– Are increasingly negative or angry.
– Feel depressed or sad most of the time.
– Are continually anxious and nervous.
– Complain of not being able to concentrate or remember.

The good new is that there are lots of things teens can do to become more stress resistant and to bounce back when they do become stressed. Below is a quiz to help you determine how stress resistant your teen is. Each statement in the exercise includes a factor that has been shown to increase adolescent resilience.²

Try This
How well can your teen resist stress and bounce back when stress strikes? To get an idea, use a sheet of paper to record how you think your teen would respond to each of the 12 statements below.

1 = Always 2 = Most of the time 3 = Sometimes 4 = Rarely 5 = Never

1. I have at least one person with whom I can talk about my problems and share my innermost thoughts.
2. I set small goals and break big tasks down into manageable chunks.
3. I schedule breaks and fun activities.
4. I practice mindfulness exercises or other relaxation techniques.
5. I get a proper amount of sleep most nights. (Teens need 8-10 hours of sleep/night to function best.³)
6. I eat regular meals – most in a stress free setting.
7. I work through worst-case scenarios until they seem highly unlikely, even ridiculous.
8. I know what I’m good at and find ways to use my strengths and build on them.
9. I exercise regularly.
10. I put things in perspective – when talking about bad times, I talk about good times too.
11. I focus on what I can control (my actions and reactions) and let go of what I cannot control (other people’s opinions and expectations).
12. I have realistic expectations, letting go of perfectionism and unrealistic expectations.

After listing your answer to each statement, total the score.

– If the score is 30 or less, your teen is probably pretty stress resistant.

– If the score is between 30 and 40, your teen may be nearing stress overload with too few strategies to resist stress.

– If the score is over 45, your teen may be in the red zone of stress overload.

Consider sharing this exercise (or discussing what you learned from completing it) with your teen. If your teen is already pretty stress resistant, encourage them to continue using a combination of strategies to maintain their bounce.

If your teen is nearing or in stress overload, look back at the items you gave a 3, 4, or 5. Improvement in any of these areas will help make your teen more resilient. You might start by picking one or two of these that you can most readily influence. For example, is there something you can do to make suppertime more relaxing? Or when your teen is talking about a bad experience, can you make it a practice to remind them of something good that happened? Might a gift of a yoga mat encourage your teen to practice relaxation? Or might you offer to help your teen purchase a membership to a local Y or fitness club? Once these strategies have become part of the routine, you can look back at the list of factors and choose a few more areas to work on together.

Sources & Resources
1. Under Pressure. Modern Family. Season 5; Episode 12.
2. The Teen Years Explained. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
3. Teens and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation.
Packer AJ. How stress resistant are you? Wise Highs. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Press; 2006.

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