Your child may learn to play pat-a-cake with their sitter or may begin clapping after watching you or an older sibling do so. And as your child grows up, this imitation continues.
In middle school, your teen may even begin to imitate the coping skills that you present. For example, if during a stressful situation you choose to cope by exercising, then you’re showing your teen a healthy way to cope with stress. Then, the chances are likely that your teen will see exercise as a positive way to handle their stress too.
This process of imitation can be helpful as teens learn to process the world around them. By looking to you, your teen can see examples of ways to handle their anxiety. But, if you choose to deal with your stress in a negative way, this imitation can lead to dangerous behaviors.
This may happen if your child watches you cope with stress or difficulties in life with harmful substances. If you deal with a stressful situation by drinking, your child may see alcohol as a way to deal with stress.
If your teen does try to use alcohol as a coping mechanism, they may see it work in the short-term. But, as time goes on, they’ll notice the need to drink more to feel as relaxed. This can lead to alcohol addiction and the inability to cope with stress in a healthy way.
While it may not seem significant for you to finish a hard day and say they, “need a glass of wine”, comments like that can instill negative thoughts into your teens’ mind.
From an early age, it’s important for you to talk about and show your teen ways to deal with stress productively.
Talk with your teen about what is stressing them out. Help them process what they’re going through and then give some life advice.
By being involved, you may see ways you can help them organize their workload or prioritize. Help them come up with something to tell a friend to clear up a relationship or give helpful advice.
It can also be good to remind them that what they’re going through will not be the end of the world and to keep a balanced perspective. Encourage them to go on a walk or read a book when they need to escape the tension they’re feeling.
These coping skills are ones that will be healthy for your teen now and will create a foundation for them in the future.