Identifying the Causes of Stress in Teenagers

Parents may not realize it, but their teens do get stressed. In fact, the teenage years may be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. The teen has to deal with changes in their body and emotions, as well as other life issues. Often, a teen is not yet mature and equipped with the coping tools to help him when the stressors threaten to overwhelm.

As parents, we can help our teens by being on the lookout for signs of stress and providing them with support during these times. We can also work towards minimizing stressors that we can control – such as the family environment and relationships between loved ones. This prevents “stress overload” in our children.

Here are some sources of stress that “attack” our teens:

-          Body changes. When puberty hits, the teen can experience some confusion on the changes that are happening. Hormones are going awry; body parts are starting to grow and feel different. Your teen is starting to say goodbye to his childhood. These changes can be overwhelming and tax the emotions.

-          Academic and school pressures. Assignments, group projects, exams and other academic requirements can be taxing for teenagers. What’s more, there may be other demands from extracurricular activities that your teen is involved in – clubs, sports teams and student government organizations. Although some teens thrive in the pressure, there may be times when this can be too much. With every activity and study time required, your teen has lesser and lesser time to rest – adding to the stress. There is even heavier pressure for seniors who face the unknown future – whether to go on and work or to apply to colleges.

-          Family issues. Siblings that constantly bicker, parents who are on the verge of divorce, an unstable home environment – these can take its toll on a child’s emotions.  Other sources of family stress include serious changes in the family such as a move to another state, dealing with a broken home or the family experiencing financial problems.

-          Peer pressure. During this stage, the teen feels a strong need to conform and “look cool” to their peers. The stress can even be exacerbated by a poor choice of friends that may be influencing the teen to do something that he knows is wrong, such as try out drugs, abuse alcohol or indulge in unsafe sexual activities. Other forms of peer pressure include bullying in school or social media and the Internet.

-          Relationship problems. If the teen gets into a fight with friends or ends a love relationship, the sense of loss can be sharper. This is the stage where the teen is developing his self-confidence and feelings of self-worth, and a relationship problem may lead your teen to doubt himself.

-          Financial stress. Aside from the family falling into financial hardship, the teen may feel stressed about the money he needs for college or for his financial capacity to be independent of his parents when he reaches the age of 18.

-          Trauma. This can include the loss or death of a loved one or friend, being a victim of bullying or abuse, as well as being involved in an accident or serious sickness (personally or with a family member).

What you can do

-          Continue to build a healthy and positive sense of self in your teen. Assure him consistently that your love for him is not based on what he does, how he looks or achieves.

-          Know your teen’s schedule to check that he is not overly taxed with his academic, extracurricular and social activities.

-          Always be there for your teen. Provide a listening and supportive ear.

-          Get help for your teen. If your teen starts exhibiting problematic behavior, consider getting counseling or enrolling him in a teen wilderness program or a summer camp. You may need assistance from a third party who can more objectively deal with the teen and who is also equipped to do this. Look for a troubled teen program that offers cognitive behavioral therapy that aims to equip the teen with tools for him to more effectively cope with stress.