It’s May — Mental Health Month — but if you have teens, May also means prom, AP tests, and preparation for finals. How ironic that a month that focuses on awareness of mental health also carries with it so much inherent stress, which can lead to or exacerbate mental health conditions.
An American Psychological Association (APA) 2014 report on Stress in America reports that American teens experience stress levels higher than what they believe is healthy (5.8 on a 10-point scale, healthy level rated 3.9). School was rated their biggest stressor.
Sadly, 42% of teens said that they didn’t do anything to cope with their stress or know how to manage it.
As parents, our role as teachers continues in the teen years, so here are four tips to help your teen cope with their stress:
Educate them about the importance of sleep. I know that it can seem that pulling an all-nighter is the only way to prepare for that test, but neurologists like Frances Jensen, who wrote The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, assert that memory consolidates with sleep. Instead of pulling all-nighters, reviewing the material and going to bed will help you know it better in the morning.
Manage your expectations. Society, and maybe even you, are telling them that if they don’t do well on this test, they won’t get into their “dream college” or get their dream job. That’s a lot of pressure for a teen, and mental health can suffer under that intense pressure. Make sure they know that there are plenty of colleges and jobs, and their life is not ruined from one test. Make sure you remember that too!
Listen (and don’t minimize). Really hear how hard it is for them to cope with all the demands on their time. Teens don’t have the life experience to know that things can and will change in the future; this is their reality now, and it’s overwhelming!
Give them tools to manage stress. Even with limited time, it’s easy to learn new strategies and skills. Mindfulnessforteens.org is a great website that teaches teens mindfulness skills. There are also apps like “Buddhify,” “Stop, Breathe, Think” and “Calm.” Bonus: you can use these apps too.
What tools do you use to help your teen?Leave a Comment ›