Decreasing Stress in Our Teens

In her New York Times Book Review on Becoming Nicole (11/8/15), Lisa Miller writes, “Children are never what one expects, and the trick is not to be disappointed — in fact, to be pleased — with who they are. This process of constantly recalibrating one’s expectations is the central job of parenthood: a high-wire act in which one’s own memories of childhood and the priorities and habits developed there come into direct conflict with who one’s child actually is.”

Miller’s words resonate with two central themes of our parenting workshops. I believe it is essential to know and accept who your child is, and to be aware of your own “stuff” that interferes with this acceptance.

Anxiety in teens is on the rise. I’ve seen statistics that 25% of all teens suffer from an anxiety disorder. Excessive academic pressure and overall stress are big topics these days. What can parents do?

One way for parents to decrease stress in their teens is to be realistic about their expectations of them. Your child may not be the next Bill Gates or Serena Williams (sorry!), so pushing them to excel in something they may not love or be great at creates intense pressure. Insisting they take AP Chemistry when they barely passed regular Chemistry isn’t being realistic. I don’t mean not having standards and expectations for your children; I mean aligning your expectation(s) with their strengths.

Another tip is to parent the teen you have. Parents often come to us in a quandary because they are raising teens who are very different from their teenage selves. Introverts raising extroverts, athletes raising scholars, rule abiders raising rule testers, you get it. It is definitely a challenge when your teen’s personality isn’t familiar to you. However, making them into who they are not generally doesn’t work and is detrimental to their own self-esteem and self-acceptance.

Going back to our own “stuff,” just because you loved debate doesn’t mean your teen does. They may keep trying because they know how much it means to you, while secretly (or not so secretly) becoming resentful and feeling unable to measure up.

As parents, we do put our hopes and dreams into our children. However, we need to recognize what is OUR dream and what is THEIRS, and be okay if they don’t align. Teens often say, “this is MY life, not yours,” and while their angry tone may not be productive, their words have merit.

I hope that you will take some time this week to explore if this post has any relevance to you and your teen.   Feel free to comment or reach out with any insights.

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