It is one of the many ironies of modern life. The more options we have to increase convenience in life, the more stressful life becomes.
New research has found that stress is affecting a majority of modern families, and it is not just adults who are affected. Young people are experiencing significant levels of stress in their own lives and are particularly sensitive to the stress levels of their parents.
A recent study by the American Psychological Association, 2010 Stress in American report, makes for interesting reading for any one who is living or working with teenagers. While the survey was based in the United States, the findings have resonance for families with teenagers in other countries also.
The key findings relating to teenagers from the report include the following:
Young People & Stress
The report found that significant numbers of young people suffer from stress.
- 20% children worry a lot or a great deal about things in their lives but very few parents 8% report that their child is experiencing a great deal of stress
- 38% reported trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night.
- 33% experienced headaches and 31 percent reported having an upset stomach in the past month.
- 50% of tweens and teens have talked to their parents about things they are worried or stressed about in the past month.
- 61% of parents indicate that they have asked their child about their stress or worry in the past month. (The difference in these findings suggest that parents and children may interpret what it means to talk about stress and worry differently, which researchers fear could have negative implications for young people and their relationships with parents.)
Teenagers and Parental Stress
It is not just their own stress that teenagers are managing, the report shows just how aware teens are of their parents stress levels.
- 69% of parents say that their stress has only a slight or no impact on their children
- 91% percent of children report they know their parent is stressed because of parental behaviour
- One-third of children age 8 – 17 believe their parent has been always or often worried or stressed out about things during the past month.
- 34 % of young people know their parent is worried or stressed out when they yell, argue with other people in the house, or complain to their children about their problems and being too busy.
- 47% of tweens and 33% of teens say that they feel sad about their parent’s stress
- 36 % of tweens and 43% of teens say that they feel worried when their parents stress
- 25 percent% of tweens and 38% of teens feel frustrated when their parents are stressed.
- Only 4% of all youth say that their parent’s stress doesn’t bother them
How Teens are Coping With Stress
The research also shows that teens are more likely to cope with stress by sitting still rather than going for a run (surprise, surprise.)
- 36 % of tweens and 66% of teens listen to music
- 56% of tweens and 41% of teens playing video games
- 34% of tweens and 30% of teens watching TV
- 51% of young people surveyed believe it’s important to be fit compared to 78% of parents who think it is extremely or very important for their child to be physically active or fit.
- 31% of young people think it’s important to find activities away from the computer compared to 75% of parents.
Helping Teenagers with Stress
Understanding how stress affects teenagers is one thing, helping them manage and cope with stress is another matter entirely. teaching teens to deal with stress will improve their quality of life in now and equip them to better manage competing demands in adult life.
Spend Time With Them
Being too busy to spend time with your teen can have the dual impact of creating them stress and indicating to them that you are stressed. By spending time with your teen you give them plenty of opportunities to talk about their worries and problems. Daily routines such as eating dinner together are simple way to be available to your teen.
Monitor Their Time
Teenagers today can be ridiculously busy. Between sporting teams, music lessons, dance classes, tutoring, homework, and trying to keep up with social events online and in person teens can be even more time poor than adults. Numerous studies have shown that teens are sleep deprived which only adds to their inability to cope with life’s demands. Make sure your teen has down time in their week. .Setting limits on after school activities, and curfews on technology use, will create space for teens to unwind and sleep better.
Help Set Realistic Expectations
Teens are prone to being very sensitive to the expectations of others. Some teens will also have high or unrealistic expectations of themselves. Encouraging your teen to speak about the expectations they have of themselves or feel others have of them can give you the opportunity to help your teen develop realistic expectations.
Your Child Is Not Your Confidant
Teenagers have enough issues of their own without being burdened by their parent’s struggles. Many teenagers are not emotionally equipped to take on their parents personal issues. Talk to your adult friends about your stuff, listen to teens talk about their stuff.
Anticipate Stressful Situations
If your family is moving, your child changing schools, or you know they have experienced significant disappointment, be particularly vigilant for signs of stress. Make an extra effort to be more available (without being pushy). Try to create a bit more space or down time for your teen during these times. Most of all be very careful not to allow your teen to become isolated or socially withdrawn during stressful periods. Continue to encourage them to participate in family time and spending time with friends who are helpful for them.