How to Manage the Stress of Parenting a Teen in a Healthy Manner
There’s no doubt about it – parenting can be very stressful indeed, and especially when you are parenting a teenager. On the whole, bringing a child into the world and raising that child comes in definite stages which can progress steadily, one after another, from pregnancy to birth, from infant to toddler, from pre-schooler to pre-teen, and then – Wham! One day you wake up and realize you have a Teen in your home! You may feel that none of the preceding stages have prepared you in any way for the changes that you see taking place in your precious “baby” who is no longer a baby! If you think this is stressful for you as the parent – just remember that the teenage years are also stressful for your child. The following hints and tips can be helpful in navigating the teenage years and relieving the stress of parenting a teen.
It’s all about learning to fly
The teen years are when your child begins to realize that he can’t stay forever in the nice ‘nest’ which you have created for him – one day he will need to learn to fly! This is completely healthy and normal – in fact this is what most parents have in mind when they want a baby – to raise that child in such a way that they become healthy, independent and mature adults… but then when it starts happening and we feel our children pulling away and finding their own identity and independence, for some reason the stress and panic can set in and we think something is ‘wrong’. Learning to fly is not easy and we need to provide a safe and secure environment for our teen to flex their muscles, stretch their wings, and practice their moves, for a few years before they are finally strong enough to launch out into the clear blue skies as fully fledged adults.
Keep the boundaries firm
While this learning process is taking place, it is important to keep the boundaries firmly in place. Helping with household chores will give your teen purposeful and meaningful work to do, so stand firm despite any moaning and groaning which may occur. Limiting your teen’s use of media and internet privileges is another healthy boundary which you may not be thanked for, but it will ensure that your teen has enough time for priorities such as studying and sleeping. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of modern day life, family members can barely meet and greet one another as they rush in and out the front door. One way to connect on a daily basis is to make dinner time a set family time where good food and conversation is shared. When boundaries are clear and firm, it can help to relieve stress for both parent and teen.
Use all the help you can get
At times it is easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed as a parent of a teenager, especially if you have more than one teen, and also if you are a single parent. This is where the extended family and friends can be an enormous help. Don’t think that you have to do it all alone. As human beings we were created for community, and in some sense we are all responsible for one another. As you include others in your family and social circle, you child will realize that they are part of a wider community that is there to help them and to be healthy adult role-models for them. Sometimes your teen may need an objective listening ear to confide in, other than his parents.
Help your teen to deal with his or her own stress
As you are coping with your own stress, it is important to recognize the stress which your teen may be experiencing and to offer help with that. Avoiding unnecessary stress may be the first step by ensuring that they get enough sleep, eat healthy food and some good physical exercise. Sometimes teens can over extend themselves with too many commitments. Talking through their schedule can help them to understand and make choices on how to balance extracurricular activities, sport and schoolwork with time for family, friends and relaxation. Encourage your teen to talk about what is causing stress in their lives and to find healthy ways of dealing with it.
Model a healthy lifestyle
As your teen observes the way you live and especially the way you handle the stress in your life, they will learn volumes. Try to model a healthy lifestyle, whether it’s in keeping fit and exercising or keeping your temper in a tense situation. Learn to recognize the signs of stress such as an increased heart rate, breathing difficulties, irritability or obsessive thoughts, and then take the necessary steps to relax and relieve that stress. Some helpful ways include taking a shower or a soaking bath, going for a run or to the gym, deep breathing and meditation or listening to music. Teach your teen ways that will work for them when it comes to coping with stress. At all costs avoid any negative stress relief such as using alcohol or drugs, escaping in front of the TV for hours, ignoring problems, or venting unfairly on others.
Remember your goals
Remember that your goal in parenting is to raise a mature adult who will one day be able to find their own way in the world as a responsible person with good character qualities. So that means being willing to encourage your teen to start behaving in a responsible manner and taking their own decisions. It will require a certain degree of stepping back on your part and allowing your teen to experience in small doses what that independence feels like, while still being under your protective covering. There may well be a few mishaps, scrapes and failures along the way – remember what it was like when you were teaching them how to ride their first bicycle…. how you held your breath as they tottered away when you took the training wheels off – but pretty soon they were whizzing around the block. And it’s going to be the same now – just stay positive and remember that one day soon your teen will be an admirable young adult and then all the stress of parenting will have been more than worthwhile.
Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy, happy marriages. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+ and Pinterest.