Teens and Stress: A Parent’s Role
By Dr. Kimberly Bell
Adolescence by definition includes anxiety. Teenagers undergo a shift from dependence on parents to navigating a larger social world. This separation causes anxiety and feelings of loneliness. In fact, feelings of anxiety and loneliness turn into worries about social conflicts, potential rejection by peers, and fears about academic failure. This transition is also hard for parents so they often try to solve their children’s problems. They sense their children’s anxiety and wish to spare them pain. Unfortunately, the message to teens is that their problems can’t be solved without a parent. “Super-helping” with stress management can push teens away; they will be less likely to seek assistance from their parents when they’re always trying to solve every problem they come across.
So what is a parent to do? A parent’s job is quite simply to be there. It’s your job to be there when they need to push away from you while relying on friends for advice and counsel; and it’s your job to be there again when they come back to you asking for help or when you see that they are in over their heads. Open and honest communication is essential for stress management. Make it known that you notice their feelings and that you are there in a non-judgmental way. When they do come to you for help, avoid over-processing the difficulty. Often teens want comfort, reassurance and support for their feelings, and not an immediate solution. When you stay in the moment and really listen, your child will tell you everything you need to know.
Dr. Kimberly Bell is a clinical psychologist in private practice specializing in child, adolescent and family issues. She is also the Director of Intern Training at the Hanna Perkins Center for Child Development in Shaker Heights, Ohio.