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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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on September 18th, 2017, 0 Comments

Simple Exercises That Can Calm School Stress

By now summer vacation is a fading memory. And as school ramps up, so does the level of household stress. Especially if there’s a teen living in your house.

In fact, when 1,000 teens across the nation were asked recently about their level of stress, only 13% reported feeling stressed out in the summer. But more than a quarter (27%) of the teens reported feeling “extreme stress” during the school year.

Almost a third of the surveyed teens reported feeling overwhelmed (31%) and depressed or sad (30%) as a result of stress. What’s more, over a third (34%) of the teens said they expected their stress to increase during the coming school year – with big workloads, balancing all their activities, and having to be “perfect” for colleges frequently mentioned as the major stressors.¹

Clearly, too much stress takes a toll on teens. Compared to their peers who are under less stress, teens under lots of stress are twice as likely to turn to unhealthy methods – like drinking, getting drunk, or using illegal drugs – to relieve their uncomfortable, anxious feelings.

It’s not hard to see why some parents set out on a mission to eliminate all the stress in their kids’ lives. But truth be told, this is mission impossible. Stress is a part of doing almost anything of significance. And even if we could get rid of all their stress, it would not be good for our kids. Because up to a point, stress is a good thing.

The body’s stress response is nature’s way of getting us pumped-up and giving us an edge when we’re in danger. And an appropriate amount of stress helps our kids thrive in more daily situations as well. Picture it motivating a student to study for an upcoming test. Or bringing focus to a basketball player at the free-throw line. Or energizing a dancer when it’s time to go on stage and perform.

So instead of trying to eliminate all of our kids’ stressors, it’s wiser to help them learn to recognize when their stress level is getting out of hand and encourage them to develop healthy ways to cope. And multiple well-designed studies indicate that practicing mindfulness exercises is one of those ways.

Those who practice mindfulness learn to focus their attention on what is happening in the moment instead of focusing on nagging worries that they’ve given too much power. These exercises have been shown to ease stress and anxiety and foster calmness and concentration in people of all ages.²

Try This
To get a sense of how mindfulness works, you can try these simple, one-minute exercises.³ Notice the benefits you get from this tiny investment of your time. Then share them with your kids. And remember, as with other types of strength training, it’ll take some practice to get the full benefit.

One Minute of Mindfulness
Start by checking in with your body. Beginning with the top of your head and moving toward your toes, notice how your body feels right now. See if there are any places where you are carrying tightness or tenseness. Check out your scalp, eyes, mouth, jaw, neck, shoulders, chest, arms, hands, belly, legs, and toes.

Next take a deep breath. As you slowly inhale, see if you can breathe into the areas where you feel any tension. As you exhale, release any tenseness your body is holding. Let your whole body relax. Repeat inhaling and exhaling two more times.

Now end with a smile. Notice the positive feeling of letting go with a pleasant, relaxing moment.

Balloon Breathing
Breathe in slowly through your nose. As you breathe in, imagine that your lungs are a balloon slowly filling with air. Keep breathing in until your lungs are like a completely full balloon.

Then with your lungs full, pause for a moment before breathing out slowly. As you gradually let the air out of your lungs, imagine your balloon getting smaller and smaller until it is completely deflated.

Repeat breathing in and breathing out like this three times. Then notice how you feel.

Sources and Resources

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