4 Things You Can Do Right Now To Help Your Stressed Teenager

Parents often tend to want to "fix" their child's issues, which means they may miss the important first step of recognising their child's feelings.
A happy mother and her daughter hug each other while sitting on sofa at home
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A happy mother and her daughter hug each other while sitting on sofa at home

With exam season about to begin, teenagers are probably going through a stressful time. Combined with the usual hormonal changes, your child might also be extra sensitive these days.

This can be difficult for both parents and children to manoeuvre together in different ways. But it’s important to know when the right time to step in and help them out is.

It’s also vital to let them figure things out on their own and provide them with coping mechanisms where possible.

Ahead of University Mental Health Day, which falls on March 14 this year, Dr Naveen Puri, Medical Director at Bupa UK Insurance shares four tips for parents on ways to support a stressed teenager.

A healthy routine

Be a role model and encourage your teen to have a healthy routine and equip them with healthy stress management techniques. You might be tempted to pour a glass of wine for yourself after a stressful day.

Instead, show your teen that there’s healthier ways to cope with stress, like getting out on a walk, heading to a gym class or journalling. You could even ask your child to join you to help evaluate your days, together.

Encouraging your child to move, socialise and reflect on their stress can create a community for them to offload in times of stress. Exercise can also help to enhance mood, fitness, self-esteem, sleep quality and energy levels.

Eating a well-balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables is essential for fuelling your body. Also, getting plenty of sleep in your routine strengthens your immune system, helps fend off illnesses, reduces stress, and supports mental wellbeing.

Listen before advising

Parents often tend to want to “fix” their child’s issues, which means they may miss the important first step of recognising their child’s feelings. Avoid going into ‘advice mode’ and give your teen room to breathe while staying aware of their emotions. This can help you to provide your teen with support, without over complicating issues.

Start by thinking about what’s currently going on in your teenager’s life. Has there been any change to their school, college or personal life that you’re aware of?

Early intervention is key, so as soon as you suspect your child is showing signs of stress, create a supportive safe space where your teenager feels comfortable talking to you about their feelings.

Give your child the opportunity to open up to you about how they’re feeling. You could start the conversation by saying something along the lines of “I’ve noticed that you’ve been quieter than usual recently, so I wanted to ask if there’s anything you’d like to speak to me about.”

Let them know you are there for them to listen to without interruption or judgement. Try not to get too disheartened if your child doesn’t offload to you, immediately. You can always try again another time.

Think about how your child usually likes to be approached. If they don’t always feel comfortable opening-up face to face, try talking to them over written note, text or phone and remember to stay calm and open, even if their behaviour upsets you.

Signpost them to further support

If your teen’s stress is affecting their ability to get on with daily activities, or stops them doing the things they enjoy, they may need some extra support.
Make sure your child is aware of additional support services available to them at their place of work or education. If their mood is deteriorating, counselling services may be of use to them. Seeking help earlier is key, as it can help reduce the risk of mental health conditions developing, like depression and anxiety.

Look after yourself

When you’re looking after a stressed teen, it’s important to still take time for yourself as it can take a lot of energy from you. You may become frustrated that you can’t make everything better for your teen and feel like you’re not doing enough for them.

Remember, your health and mental wellbeing are crucial too. Take time out when you can to do the things you enjoy, and reach out to someone trusted to talk through your concerns (respecting your child’s confidentiality).
Your GP can also offer further advice and support to help you and your teen tackle their stressors.