Stress is a normal part of family life. According to a report published by Clemson Extension, family stress involves a real or imagined imbalance between the demands of the family and the family's ability to meet the demands. Examples of common family demands or stressors include divorce and single parenting, death, financial problems, teenage pregnancy, and drug abuse. However, not all stressors are negative. For example, a job promotion that requires relocation can put stress on the family. Parents and teens can do a great deal to help each other during times of stress.
How Parents Can Help Teens
Often teen stress is minimized or dismissed. This is partly because teens tend to over-dramatize their problems. However, that doesn't mean that the stress isn't real or a potential problem. Teens face a multitude of stress inducing issues including academic expectations, social problems with friends and peers, negative self-esteem, and preparing for the future. These occur along with any other stressors the family is facing, such as divorce or financial trouble.
Recent research suggests that parents' stress can increase the risk of stress in their children. So, the first step parents need to take is to monitor their stress level and model effective and appropriate stress-reducing behavior. Beyond that, parents can help teens cope with stress by:
- Paying attention to their teen's health, behavior, and feelings.
- Helping them identify the feelings of stress such as stomach aches, fast heart rate, or obsessive thinking.
- Listening and being supportive, even if the event the teen is expressing worry about doesn't seem important.
- Teaching relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, exercising, or listening to music.
- Teaching problem solving skills.
- Providing support or assistance when needed or appropriate.
- Ensuring that the teen is getting proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep.
How Teens Can Help Parents
It's not a teen's job to help parents with stress-related problems; however, there are things teens can do to reduce stress on parents. This is particularly true since teens can be the source of parental stress. Teens can help reduce stress in their parents by:
- Being a positive participant in the family. The teen years are about growing up and away from the family, but that doesn't mean teens can't eat dinner with and participate in family events that build cohesiveness.
- Doing their fair share. Growing up brings more freedom, but also more responsibility. Teens can help by taking care of their chores and other duties without having to be asked or coerced.
- Follow the rules. Parents generally make rules to maintain order, family balance, and protect teens. If the rules feel unfair, teens can have a mature, well-thought out discussion about changing them.
- Helping out with younger children. Sometimes parents just need a little time to themselves. Teens can help by offering to watch younger children while the parent takes a walk or a nap.
- Being willing to talk with parents about the important and unimportant aspects of life. Parents, like teens, get worried when they don't know what's going on.
- Encouraging parents to engage in stress-reducing strategies such as exercise, deep breathing or even counseling.
Ultimately, the most successful families are able to develop coping strategies to weather the storms of stress. The best strategies include open communication, strong family relationships, and tension-reducing tactics such as exercise or a positive attitude.