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Teenagers and Stress: What Parents Can Do to Help

More and more parents are expressing their concerns about how to support their teenagers who are complaining about the stress in their lives.

What parents may not realize, is that what they do every day by providing healthy food, support, and a comforting home, provides the very stress-antidotes their teens need. Deborah Weinstock-Savoy, Ph.D.,a psychologist who specializes in working with families says "The basic nurturing that parents offer in providing a loving and comfortable home is the first line of defense."

Weinstock-Savoy points out that home should be a place where kids can re-charge their batteries, feel safe and supported. When teenagers have the support they need, when they eat right and get enough sleep, they usually have much of what it takes to manage the stress they will confront.

Parents can help teens in some specific ways, too. Primarily this has to do with teaching, or coaching their teenagers toward problem solving. Parents need to "engage the teen's owns sense of what s/he needs," says Weinstock-Savoy. She says parents and their teenagers can explore this together, with the teen being asked to offer insight and suggestions, as usually kids have ideas about this. This is the direction parents need to take because it helps the teen develop necessary coping and problem-solving skills.

Assisting kids in becoming more self-aware is an extension of this thought. It may not be immediately obvious to kids, so parents should help guide them to a growing awareness of themselves, which will help them learn to identify situations, and solutions. Through this they begin to develop strategies that will be tools they will use for the rest of their lives.

While this family specialist makes these recommendations, she is quick to admit that sometimes parents are faced with "kids who won't allow them to share their wisdom with them." This makes it important for parents to help ensure their teenager has other adults in whom s/he can confide and go to for advice. "Parents need to identify for themselves who else is out there, who else will help provide advice, help their teens safe, and offer support." She calls this "extending the mantle of support," and points out that this is as important for parents as it is for kids. Parents should know the adults in their teens life to some extent; knowing that they share your families values and will be providing sound advice is another way of providing support for your child, only this time it's from behind the scenes.

What are the biggest sources of stress for teenagers? "Peer relationships and managing school," according to Weinstock-Savoy. She points out that kids need to have a sense of belonging with their peers. This provides an important buffer and helps them deal with the stress they confront. Missing this, the resulting sense of loneliness serves to increases their stress. School, and all that entails, is often a source of stress for teenagers. And thirdly, the important developmental steps they are taking during adolescence in developing their identity also create stress. Although this is a more abstract concept, it is an important part of the life of teenagers.

Parents who are tuned in to their teenagers, sensitive in providing support, encouragement, love and a nurturing home environment are doing all the right things to help their kids learn to deal with the stress they confront in typical situations every day.

? 2004 Sue Blaney

Sue Blaney is the author of Please Stop the Rollercoaster! How Parents of Teenagers Can Smooth Out the Ride and Practical Tips for Parents of Young Teens; What You Can Do to Enhance Your Child's Middle School Years. As a communications professional and the parent of two teenagers, she speaks frequently to parents and schools about parenting issues, improving communications and creating parent discussion groups. Visit our website at http://www.PleaseStoptheRollercoaster.com

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