My daughter is very much like her mother. She is a driven young lady with a need to not just perform, but to over-achieve. She thinks of herself second to the needs and wants others have for her, which can continually fuel a sometimes unhealthy need to please. She is an honor roll student taking AP classes and already looking at college and a professional career as a writer and actress. That is a lot of pressure.
Sometimes as moms, and in my case a single mom, we are overwhelmed by the demands on our lives and value everyone else’s pressure by the weight of our own. I once caught myself saying to my daughter, “All you do is go to school.” The passionate person she is, she quickly pointed out how I minimized her stress. “You don’t understand,” she said. I was once a teen so, of course, I used that as my response but, in reality, it is very different today than a couple decades ago. Social media, the variety and availability of drugs, and today’s sheer lack of respect and common sense have all changed what teenagers deal with today versus the past.
We, as adults, know that life does not get any easier. They will need to develop skills and use strategies to become successful, productive men and women despite the challenges. Here are some ways to help them lower their stress, calm their anxiety, and deal.
Let them vent. One of the first things I do after picking my daughter up is to ask her about her day. Some days she will go into a 5-10 minute rant about some unfair teacher or a classmate that was tripping or how stupid boys are or something that makes no sense to me because I have no context. Just a venting teenager rambling without taking a breath. With an “uh huh” and “really” here and there, I just let her vent. At the end of it she takes a deep breath, sits back in the chair, and begins to scroll through her phone like a typical, semi-carefree, teenager. Teenagers can feel powerless often. They are not quite children and not yet adults but are expected to behave as adults without having the voice or rights of one. Sometimes they just want to be heard.
Don’t try to fix everything. If our children are stressed about how a teacher is treating them or how a friend has betrayed them or about an upcoming test, we can be quick to offer advise. But we do not just offer advice, we tell them what they should do and expect them to embrace our wisdom and apply it quickly. How we would handle a challenge may not be the way they would choose to handle it. Our insistence of them using our method only adds to their stress. We should offer some insight of how we would handle the situation, always reinforcing that they have options and their choices matter. Make good ones.
Help them develop an affirming routine. The thoughts, feelings, and emotions of a teenager are all over the place. They often fluctuate based on what they are experiencing at that time and compound with each additional experience. By helping your teenager create an affirming routine, they have an additional tool to refocus and center them during stressful times. Their routine could include affirmations they recite each morning, it could be a fitness routine, it could be a simple conversation you have each night while preparing dinner. It is something, occurring regularly, that they can depend on to help them deal. You should be an integral part of the process.