A new year brings a new start for many teens. It’s an exciting time to start new classes, reunite with classmates and start the countdown to summer. Some teens may use this new semester to try new sports, join different clubs or look to the future as they make decisions for potential colleges and careers.
Many, though, may be nervous about all the change. Stress is a natural feeling for teens to experience. With academics, social lives and changing bodies they have a lot going on. Regardless of how excited a teen may be at the beginning of a new semester, there will always be some stress to face.
As your teen transitions into another busy semester, take some time to talk with them about what’s going to happen in this new year. Pam Stoelzel, a Community Health Specialist at CoxHealth, gives three steps to talking with your teen about stress.
Create a safe space
When you start your conversation, Stoelzel recommends being in a safe space. This can help your teen feel comfortable opening up to you about what’s going on in their life. You can sit with them in their room, around the kitchen table or head out for a walk. Choose a place your teen enjoys being. Make sure you have plenty of time when you start this conversation too. Teens have a lot going on. Do your best to let them take their time as they process things with you.
Keep an open mind. Try not to immediately pass judgment while your teen tells you about what is going on in his or her life. It can be easy, as an invested parent, to have an opinion about everything in your teen’s life. But there are times when you just need to listen. One of the best ways for a teen to feel acknowledged is to talk through things.
In the same way, it can be tempting to want to give input while your teen talks. Giving good advice can be a great way to wrap-up the conversation, but make sure to give your teen room to talk. Really work to listen to what they are saying and make them feel heard. Showing them that you are willing to listen can help teens know that the emotions they’re feeling are valid.
Once you’ve heard your teen out, help your teen handle their feelings in a healthy way. Encourage them to go for a walk, read a book or do something that they enjoy. By helping them establish positive ways to deal with their stress, you’re preparing them to deal with stress in a healthy way as they move into adulthood.
Knowing how to deal with stress in a positive way can prevent teens from feeling like they need to turn to alcohol or other substances to cope. While this can seem like a good way to feel better in the short-term, in the long run using substances to handle stress only creates a dangerous spiral of substance use.
Let your teen know early on that they can talk with you about stress. Creating a safe space for your teen now will help them feel comfortable talking with you about things in the future.