What could be major stressors in teenage life? Is it possible we may not be aware of these things that stress teens out or don’t care to admit it? Most times when we hear about teens and stress or teenage stress symptoms, we want to compare their stress with our adult stress. As if our stress should be the standard by which all stress should be measured up against. Have I stressed stress enough?
Don’t get me wrong, I know, that you know, that we know the realities of their stress on this side of things. However, it still doesn’t remove their perspective on the matter nor does it remove the effects it’s having on them. Therefore, by taking their truth into consideration we can set up our home for compassion and consideration and not allow untouched emotion to rule it.
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How to Recognize Teenage Stress Symptoms
Although we will discuss teenage stress symptoms, it’s not really hard to determine if your teen is stressed out. Honestly, I have yet to meet a teen who isn’t at some level stressed about something as I’m sure many of us would agree who has ever entered into any type of conversation with a teenager.
Think about it. Would you want to do High School over again? Do you remember what it was like? I know I wouldn’t and if you would it would only be to relive the glory days or special moments during that time. We often forget how many more moments we wish we could’ve avoided altogether or done differently. Here are some reminders as to what those things could’ve been:
Common causes of stress in teenagers
While adults deal with many of the following stressors, these can be even more stressful for teens because they are dealing with them AND dealing with the hurricane of emotions that come with puberty. What might seem manageable to me or you seem like a mountain to a teenager trying to understand why their emotions are all over the place. These are the most common causes of stress in teenagers.
- Romantic relationships- Enough said! Some parents are going through this now and we know heartache takes a toll.
- School work- I haven’t been able to help my daughter with her homework since she was in the 1st grade. Forget about 12th grade, trigonometry!
- Eating– I don’t know how they forget to eat or how figuring out what to eat is harder than their Trig class but yes eating is a stressor even for those football players in your house. Many don’t know how to cook or are so overwhelmed they don’t care to.
- After school activities– Between soccer, dance, school plays, honors classes, regular classes, etc., teens are often up until midnight working on homework. Every single minute is accounted for!
- Friendships– Or lack thereof, it’s hard to tell who’s your real friends are, navigating friendships can be like a game of Operation…shocking, scary, and stressful!
- College prep– Figuring out scholarships, school choice, what to do for the rest of their life, adulting, all of it and at a fast pace. Some people are still figuring this out!
- Achievements- Even though becoming Captain of the team, getting into Honors classes, winning certain positions on competition teams all have their positive aspects and can be exciting at the time, it can take a lot more to stay there. Add the expectations of others and it can be considered more of a burden than a blessing.
Of course, there are always beautiful exceptions to the rule. I have met one or two teens who seem to deal with stress pretty well. Although, they are like the unicorns of the teenage population. We believe they are there but it’s rare to see one.
Teenage Stress Symptoms
Take notes during seasons like summer where teen(s) seem more at ease because things may have slowed down. See if there is a difference in their attitude and how you can carry that into the school season. If there isn’t a difference, then maybe take another route to help them it could point to something deeper.
When you do come to a time where you started noticing a shift in your teen’s attitude. Here are a few red flags to help you determine if your teen is indeed stressed:
Irritability and anxiety
Some days they are just so loving and other days if you flick the light on the wrong way it sets them off. It’s like when you know your toddler didn’t take a nap that day or they have been off their schedule. Use this as a sign that something is off.
Being short in responses, restlessness, unable to get comfortable, jerky movements, easily triggered, these can all be signs that something is off in your teen. For the ladies in your home, during certain monthly visits, these behaviors will become more amplified during that time.
Yes, it can be easy to diagnosis this as “millennialitis” (a word I made up concerning the emotional state of the millennial generation that I’m sure we’ve all experienced either in the form of easily being triggered or offended, at anything, at any time). However, in order to have a peaceful home and the child you once not only loved but liked we must get to the root of what’s going on and help!
I know we seem to think once our children become teenagers, we are done parenting. Most parents with much older children will tell you, you are never done parenting. That’s ok. It’s our legacy ministry
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Overeating or under eating
Food can often become a source of comfort when anyone is stressed out. I mean they don’t call them comfort foods for no reason. Chocolate cake, amirite? However, like anything these types of foods can become a problem if consumed in excess.
We are in an era where people are more health conscious and we are so much more educated in these things than ever before. Research and take action.
Keep an eye out in their eating habits and see if the scale is tipped in either direction. Balance is key when consuming foods. Having enough to eat during the day will help with attitude. Every 2-3 hours and at least 6 times a day is a healthy way to go from what I’ve learned. We have all had our hangry moments.
Not wanting to put a fork in the sink may seem like an act of rebellion or disobedience but it can also be a sign of being overwhelmed due to stress.
Why does walking to the sink sound like a marathon to them?
I know many adults who have been there, myself included. When it comes to our teens we often want to just point out their attitude and not ask ourselves why they are lacking motivation or energy to do simple things.
Keep an eye out for their response to small insignificant activities. They can either be really lazy or seriously overwhelmed. Ask the Holy Spirit for help!
Seeing the red flags helps us decide. We can go into the full parental mode and choose to discipline these things which can often be found in ourselves during times of stress. I’m sure we can all remember a time where we needed grace in these areas. We also have the option of taking a step back and assessing the situation to make the proper Godly moves so our home can function in peace.
Stress relievers for students
Now that you understand why they are stressed out and how to recognize some of the main teenage stress symptoms, it is important that we, as parents, teach them how to manage these symptoms. Here are some ways to help them with relieving some of that teenage stress.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 Click To Tweet
Organize/create space in their schedule
Try taking off a few things from their schedule. Have they been hinting ballet class was fun at 5 but now at 16 they are just not into it? You can often tell if they aren’t excited about going anymore but are you ready to let go? Now that they are a teen, there should be a discussion to see if it’s even necessary. It may be taking up space where something more productive for their future can be.
Do they have to be part of the travel soccer league? If they do, can we take another sport off their list in the next season? Are they a part of it because other people are expecting them to be a part of it or because they really want to?
Think about their school schedule too. Are there classes they don’t really need to be in? For instance, are they in Honors classes because you want them to be in them or is there an actual benefit like potential college credits? Can they drop to a regular class? Does it have to 5 Honors classes or can it be 2?
All kids are different, so you have to decide as a family what’s best for everyone.
It’s amazing how much breath we all get to take when their schedule gets to take a breath too.
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One of the negative effects of technology is the fact that there is so much available to teens instantly. For instance, when we heard about a school shooting like Columbine it’s nothing like it is now. At the time and level of technology, we had limited access only knowing a few facts, getting limited video footage, and not hearing until months or years later testimonies from the victims.
Now there is no value of life, privacy, or a sense of urgency to get to a safe place. Phones go on immediately giving full access to those tuning in. Screams, bodies, gunshots, and the intimate nature of the tragedy is unfolding right before your eyes and available to replay over and over again.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philip. 4:8 NIV
Whenever you see your teen consuming themselves with these things, getting into trouble in school, showing signs of stress, or an increase in their anxiety is soon to follow.
During times of tragedy, sometimes we need to just turn off the TV, take away phones, and take a walk together. Talking about these things, praying about fears, and protecting ourselves is important. I truly don’t believe we weren’t meant to know so much as it can become paralyzing and ineffectual in actually making a significant change.
We all know that teens will find a way to get on their social media – even when you tell them to stay off. There are some really great Christian influencers on social media. CUStudents is a great teen ministry that continually pours into their followers through Instagram and other platforms. The CUStudents pastor – The Joey Weller – also goes live on his channel as well – pouring a positive message and encouraging teens through their times of struggle. Encourage your teenager to follow them!
Set up spiritual time with God
Everyone gets grouchy when their time is lacking with the Lord. Teens are no different. This doesn’t just mean Youth Group and church on Sundays. It means actual relationship building time with the Lord.
Make time with the Lord a mandatory until it becomes habitual.
People complain about forcing God or church on their kids. It’s called discipline and training. If we force something like ballet rather than something that has eternal value, we may need to look at our own God time and see what’s lacking there. You can read more about releasing your child to God here.
There is no one else like God Who can make the changes needed in a person’s heart to make lasting change and be exactly what they need, anywhere, at any time.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. “ Philip. 4:19 NKJV
Their own faith in Christ must be talked about often and don’t take, “I know Mom…” as an excuse not to talk about it. Fruit speaks for itself.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. “ Philip. 4:19 NKJV Click To Tweet
Change of circle of influence
Who are they hanging out with? What are those friends into? Do you notice a change in their behavior when they are done hanging out with someone? Sometimes, teens have no idea they are in toxic relationships or even what a healthy friendship looks like.
“Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 1 Cor. 15:33 NKJV
There have been many times when I started seeing an attitude shift in my daughter’s behavior after being close to a particular person. I started to limit interaction with them to only school hours and wouldn’t agree to hangouts outside of my home. Eventually the friendship died because through time the person’s true nature was revealed.
It’s honorable to think your teen can be the person to turn others away from darkness and of course there are very few exceptions to the rule. However, it has been my experience more often than not that if you allow your teen to try and be the beacon of light amongst a group of friends of negative influence, they often become consumed.
They can find Godly and healthy relationships. It may take some work and prayer, but it can happen.
Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27-17 Click To Tweet
Cutting off romantic relationships
Who are they dating? What are they doing when they are together? Oftentimes, kids are getting away with immoral behavior in their schools either due to downtime, lack of supervision, or loopholes all teenagers seem to find. It all takes a major toll all around. Sexual sin consumes.
If you find yourself getting nowhere by asking questions, the best way to find out if something is by praying for your teenager consistently. It doesn’t matter how good a teenager gets at hiding or lying. There is a God Who sees all and will expose it.
“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” Luke 8:17 NIV
This is a promise from the Creator of the universe. If we are faithful to pray for revelation, He will reveal.
Is this a relationship they need to be involved in? Should you counsel them in removing themselves from it? Not allow any dating for a period of time?
Treat a romantic relationship with the same kind of standard with friendships.
Is their behavior changing? Have you caught them in a few lies? Are they distant and melancholy? All of this behavior takes energy and is a major stressor.
Will teens find a way to do what they want? Yes. However, this doesn’t excuse us from setting a Godly standard in our home. If they are dishonest, take action. Even if in the end, they do what they want to do anyway at least we know we set the foundation for Christian living and can stand before the Lord one day in that confidence.
All bodies need an activity where it can exert all the stress trapped inside the body. Many teens find this through their extracurricular activities with sports but if they don’t have this outlet, find somewhere they can.
Boxing works with some teens, Zumba for others. Even introverted teens can find an exercise to their liking. Experiment with different kinds. Exercise has shown so many benefits and I know when I don’t work out I mentally feel the difference along with the physical part.
Sleep is right along with that even though it seems like the opposite. Yes, teens are known for sleeping in and sleeping all the time. Honestly, we must weigh their productive exertion with the amount of time they sleep. They may have to make up for early mornings and long nights. That’s okay as long as their reasons are productive healthy ones.
I pray this has helped bring some teen perspective to their battle with stress. When in doubt, pray it out.
If we don’t take the time out to make changes, we are setting our house up to become a whirlwind of emotion.
Is this a foolproof plan or exhaustive list? No, but just because we can’t have peace all of the time doesn’t mean we can’t have peace most of the time.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
Simply put, there is hope in Jesus Christ. He, Who can change your home from one of stress to one of peace.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Heb. 4:14-16 NIV
Remember, there is only so much we can do to provide for our teen. At the end of the day, when we know we’ve done everything we could’ve to help our teen on this side of heaven then we leave it on the other side of heaven, in the Lord’s hands. He is a faithful God!
There is so much more to learn about your teenagers as they (and you) navigate these crazy years. If you want some great reading material to help you along, be sure to check out:
- Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls
- Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul
- Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul