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Help Your Stressed Out Teen Relax

stress-relax-blackboadAccording to a recent survey done for the American Psychological Association, teens are feeling more stressed-out than adults today with school being a main cause.

Fully 83% reported that traditional schools were a somewhat or significant source of their stress. Twenty-seven percent reported “extreme stress levels” during the school year and many of the teens also reported feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and anxious. They say it is hurting their performance in school, work, and at home.

The survey highlights the current problem with the “high stakes” competitive school environment that has evolved over the past 20 years. Although schools have increased their academic expectations of what students should achieve, they haven’t risen to the challenge of also teaching students how to manage the accompanying toxic stress.

Ways Teenage Stress Hurts Learning

  • Lack of focus
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Inability to retain information
  • Lowered executive functioning
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and general feelings of being overwhelmed

Many parents are beginning to remove their children from stressful academic environments and seeking educational alternatives such as smaller private schools, homeschooling, or charter schools.   Other parents chose to leave their child in a stressful setting, but teach stress monitoring and stress reduction strategies, either at home or with the help of a therapist or psychologist.

In addition to seeking help from a school counselor or private practice therapist, here are a few things you and your child can do to deal with stress.

Ways to Help Your Teenager Deal with Stress

  • Monitor if stress is affecting their teen’s health, behavior, thoughts, or feelings
  • Listen carefully to your child and watch for overloading
  • Learn and model stress management skills
  • Support involvement in sports and other pro-social activities

How Your Teenager Can Deal with Stress

  • Exercise and eat regularly
  • Learn relaxation exercises (abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques)
  • Rehearse and practice situations which cause stress
  • Avoid excess caffeine intake which can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation
  • Develop assertiveness skills to voice feelings politely and firmly, not aggressively or passively
  • Learn practical coping skills such as breaking a large task into smaller, more attainable tasks
  • Change negative thoughts to positive thoughts – “My life is terrible” can be transformed into, “I may feel hopeless now, but my life will probably get better if I work at it and get some help”
  • Learn to feel good about doing a “good enough” job rather than demanding perfection
  • Listen to music, talk to a friend, draw, write, or spend time with a pet
  • Ask family and friends to help you cope with stress in a positive way

Visit AACAP website for more information on the impacts of stress and how you can help your child.

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