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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Guest blogger: Taming teen stress

August 15, 2010

By Lori Lite

Me? Stressed?! Does it show?

Lori Lite is the founder of Stress Free Kids. Her books, CDs and curriculums help children, teens, and adults manage anxiety, stress, and anger while promoting self-esteem and peaceful sleep. A 2009 contestant on ABC’s Shark Tank, Lori successfully negotiated a deal which enabled her to quickly expand her brand. Now Lori’s award-winning line of CDs introduces teens to relaxation techniques and music. Indigo Teen Dreams and Indigo Dreams: Teen Relaxation Music have been embraced by parents, psychologists, educators, therapists and doctors around the world. A mother of three, she has some valuable tips for parents to help their teens overcome their stress.

Most parents recognize and remember that the teenage years are a volatile time marked by the struggle for independence, the forging of identity, the painful process of emotional maturation, and the learning of societal norms.  Yet parents often underestimate the toll that the stress from these years can take on a teen.

Teenage stress has never been more prevalent. Teenagers are living ever-more complex lives in a society that increasingly treats them as younger adults.  It is as important as it’s ever been, then, for parents to recognize the causes of teen stress and to take measures to relieve or combat it.

Teens are worried about grades, sports achievements, peers, relationships. Many teens are dealing with divorcing or single parents. The recession has also increased stress for teens. Many are working to help make ends meet. Others are in fear of their parents losing their jobs and the roof over their head.

Tips for Helping Teens Manage Stress

1. Remember that stress is contagious, but so is calm. Demonstrate relaxation and positive statements in your parenting routine.

2. Talk to your teen. Figure out when their guard is most likely to be down and use that time to communicate.

3.  Stay up and have a late night snack with your teen. Teens may be more talkative at night and in the kitchen .

4. Tell stories about challenges you have had as a teen and how you handled it. Make sure to share the mistakes you made. Teens are more likely to share their challenges after a story than a direct question.

5.  Give your teens more freedom, but keep clear boundaries. A teen without rules is a teen with much stress.

6.  Schedule downtime with your teen. Go for a walk. A bike ride. Shoot baskets together. Take them out of their usual environment. You’ll be surprised how your teen will let his/her walls down doing something outdoors.

7. Pay attention to what you say to your teen. Take a break from criticizing and correcting. Make a choice to give a compliment every day.

8. Expose your teen to relaxation techniques like diaphragmatic breathing, visualization, progressive muscular relaxation, and positive statements. Empower you teen to feel good!

Parents sometimes make the mistake of interpreting legitimate stress as the typical emotional volatility associated with being a teenager.  Labeling stress as ‘just being a teen’ both unfairly discounts the difficulty of the teenage years and can obscure the telltale signs of damaging teen stress. Parents might notice their teen is stressed if they see that their teen is easily agitated, overactive, confused, afraid, angry, sad, anxious or withdrawn. A preoccupation with a traumatic event, withdrawal from family and friends, sleep disturbances and physical complaints can all be indicators of stress. Lite encourages parents to trust their instinct.

Teens can also help manage their own stress levels, by making a homework plan, scheduling downtime, exercising regularly, eating healthy, not over scheduling, and getting plenty of sleep.  Parents should encourage this behavior whenever possible.

Teen stress is a very real, potentially damaging condition. Parents should take whatever steps possible to help their teenagers relieve their stress during this challenging period of life.  And they should start today.

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