Teen Stress and Substance Abuse: A Two-Part Series
Part Two: Managing Teen Stress
November 21, 2018
All parents wish they could protect their children from experiencing pain or stress. A teenager today will be faced with new challenges and stessors continually. The national Child Traumatic Stress Network reports that 4 out of 10 adolescents have witnessed violence, 17 percent have been physically assaulted, and as many as eight percent have experienced secual assault.
Teen stress management involves developing healthy coping skills and creating a mindset and environment that diffuses stress and provides positive resources. Learning to effectively and positively manage stress is a process for the entire family and community. As parents, teachers and guides, we have a responsibility to prepare teens with the tools they need to be resilient adults.
Stress management skills for teens (and all individuals) include: Taking care of yourself – get enough sleep, eat healthy and exercise and use relaxation or meditation techniques such as visualization or mindfulness; Focus – on one challenge at a time, on accomplishments and positive events rather than setbacks and negative events; Move on – if you don’t succeed, practice and prepare for next time or try something different, set realistic expectations, and learn to accept that you cannot control everything and everything is not your responsibility; and Talk abou it – find a counselor, a parent or a trusted friend to tell your problems to or keep a journal.
Supportive stress management steps for families include: Talking to your teen every day and listening without judging them or their problems, being sensitive to their stress and helping them cope; having realistic expectations and accepting your teen for who they are; being engaged in your children’s lives; not overscheduling their lives, leaving time to relax and enjoy; finding fun, relaxing activities for your family to do together, taking walks or hikes, playing games or watching movies; letting your teen know substance use is not an acceptable way to deal with problems; and seeking counseling for teens exposed to traumatic or emotionally stressful events.
While certainly this list will not be a cure-all for the issues that arise in the teen world, the most important thing to remember is to be there for your teen. Be present and engaged in their changing world. We all remember, sometimes with a grimace, what these teenage years were like.
By offering a stable, healthy example of stress management efforts, our community will be better able to redirect teen stressors before they lead to unhealthy coping methods like substance abuse. And truly, couldn’t we all go for a family walk and be the better for it? For more information on stress management techniques and the role that stress plays in substance abuse, contact the Valley CARE Coalition or your Prevention Specialist Jenny Fuller at 263-0943.