Modern teens stressed as ever

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
There's some evidence to suggest that stress among teenagers is higher than ever, writes parenting columnist Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

Their stress can be triggered by an array of things, from concerns about climate change and their future, stuff on social media and bullying, to normal adolescent insecurities, school and the coming end of year exams.

A little stress isn't a bad thing in cases like exams, job interviews, a stage performance or major sports event. It gets the adrenaline flowing and stops you from being too casual.

Stress becomes unhelpful when it goes beyond being at the level of "fight or flight" or event-related high performance and becomes embedded. You'll see, or know from your own experience, that it can lead to physical problems such as headaches, stomach aches and sleeplessness, or emotional problems such as irrational outbursts, aggression, depression, or anxiety and, with it, short-term memory loss.

This sort of stress is likely to be more a problem for teenaged boys than girls as, with their earlier maturity and verbal skills, girls are often better able to communicate their concerns and worries. They find talking about things an effective stress relief, whereas boys tend to find that talking about painful events is doubly stressful; like reliving the event and a stress in itself.

Some practical ways we can help our teens minimise their stress:

•Start them off every day with a good breakfast (include fruit and not too much sugar).

•Regular exercise helps. Be inventive if they're reluctant - have them take the dog for a run or cycle to the shops for milk. Better still, go with them.

•Sporting and cultural activities or independent hobbies are to be encouraged - these can both excite and distract.

•On the other hand, they can also be overly busy, especially in their final year or two at school as they juggle sports, music, homework, school production, and social events. Make sure they have downtime in their week if that's the case.

•Help them set realistic expectations about what they can achieve and ensure our own expectations of them are realistic.

•Encourage sufficient sleep - for most that's probably eight hours, but don't expect their sleeping time to necessarily coincide with ours. Teens tend to go to bed later and wake later.

•Be available to them. Things like eating meals together give them an opportunity to talk if they want.

•If they can't or won't talk, don't get all hurt and put out about it but encourage grandparents or other family members to have a go. Otherwise consider a health professional.

•Don't make our issues their issues - they'll have enough of their own.

 - Ian Munro

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