parenting a stressed teenagerShe’s under a lot of pressure between academic assignments, college applications looming and strife between her friends.

You haven’t seen her smile and laugh in a long time.

She stays up late to get school projects done and gets up early to make it to her student club meeting before school. You’re concerned. And you should be.

We all know how stress affects our health and well-being adversely and teens are not excluded from this risk.

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In my office I see a lot of adolescents who need stress management tools. I also notice that often their parents are either contributing to their stress or just have no idea how to help them.

Let’s face it. Being a teenager has always come with peer pressure, romance woes and some amount of academic and professional stress. But today’s adolescents are under far more stress than we were when we were teens. I see my daughter juggling more than I believe is reasonable and I often find myself talking her down from the heights of overwhelm. I find myself repeating this process with many of my adolescent clients in my office so I thought I’d pass along some of this to you.

8 tips and tools for parenting a stressed out teenager you can begin using today.

  1. Listen. Just listen with empathy and reflection. Resist the urge to lecture. Simply hold space for your teenager and let him know you are there without judging or demanding.
  2. Breathe in. Breathe out. It may sound ridiculously simple but the act of slowly breathing in and slowly breathing out deeply and audibly while you are listening with empathy and reflection will be a very helpful and contagious action. Slowing the breath and taking in a nice dose of oxygen soothes the emotion based limbic center of the brain and allows the reasoning and rational prefrontal cortex to come back on line.
  3. Help your teen manage time and get organized. Implement an effective time management system called time blocking. There are free apps such as Plan that interfaces with your google calendar and allows you to block off time to complete tasks that are priorities and you will learn how to say “No” to things that are not a priority.  Time management can eradicate overwhelm.
  4. Roll out the  yoga mats and cue up some soothing sounds. Try one of my free guided relaxation recordings at no cost here. Invite your teen to join you on the floor. With soothing music filling the room and maybe a little lavender essential oil in the air, you and your teen can benefit from gentle stretches and some progressive muscle relaxation.
  5. Practice laughter medicine. Text her a funny GIF or a laughing baby video on YouTube. Make it a point to find the humor in life and make her heavy load a little lighter.
  6. Be sure your teen is eating nutritiously and consistently. I am alarmed again and again when I hear my adolescent clients reporting that they are skipping meals, too busy to eat and when they do eat they are eating junk.  Teach her how to make a delicious green smoothie in under a minute in the morning. Help her pack a nutritious lunch and snack and have healthy food ready to grab in the fridge.
  7. Let her sleep. Teens need their sleep. Let her take a quick nap or sleep in on the weekend. Encourage healthy sleep habits by hanging darkening curtains in her room and having her put away all electronics an hour before she hits the hay.
  8. Motivate and encourage but don’t pressure or criticize. Chances are, your teen is hard enough on himself. What he needs from you is encouraging statements such as, “I know you can do it!” and “You’ve got what it takes! How can I support you?”  Humans are not motivated by criticism. Criticism is shown to break down relationships and negatively impact self-worth. Find ways to use positive reinforcement of healthy and adaptive choices he makes and redirect unhealthy choices in a better direction without being harsh.

If your teen loses motivation for more than a few days, seems to be sleeping instead of attending to priorities or has no appetite, your teen might be suffering from depression. Seek professional help from a licensed psychotherapist like myself if you are concerned your efforts to support are not enough.