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How to Help Your Teen Manage Stress

How to Help Your Teen Manage Stress

Dr. Indra Cidambi is here with tips to identify signs of stress in your teen and help him cope.


It’s no secret that today’s teens are dealing with more stress and mental health issues than–at least it seems like–ever before. For parents, figuring out how to communicate openly with their teen about stress can be challenging and stressful in itself! Dr. Indra Cidambi, M.D. of the Center for Network Therapy is here to help you understand the factors contributing to your teen’s stress, why she might turn to drugs, alcohol, and other unhealthy habits to cope with her feelings, and what you can do to help her work through these issues in a positive and beneficial way.

 

So why are teens so stressed?

Unrealistic expectations, parental marital problems, an estranged sibling relationship, and financial stressors in the family can all trigger a spike in teen stress, says Dr. Cidambi. Adding to that stress is everything that’s happening in the world that your child has access to every day because of social media–school shootings, terrorism, natural disasters, and more. Fear of the unknown can be a huge stressor in teens.

 

What are signs of stress parents can look out for?

“30% of teenagers report that feeling stressed results in sadness,” Dr. Cidambi says. “Stressed teens might complain that they don’t feel well before school, because stress often leads to physical health complaints; they’ll be missing days of school, and they’ll have sleep issues. Behavior in school will worsen, the child will be increasingly irritable, and there will be a change in socialization.”

 

Why do teens turn to drugs and alcohol to cope?

Puberty, high school, and more can lead to low self-esteem, and some teens see drugs and alcohol as a way to gain the impulsivity they need to break social barriers and gain confidence back, Dr. Cidambi reports. Drugs and alcohol become a coping mechanism to help kids feel better.

 



What are signs of substance use in teens?

If you notice your teen becoming more secretive, avoiding bringing his friends over, not making eye contact with you, losing interest in his favorite activities, or wearing inappropriate clothing for the season, like a heavy hoodie in the summer that could cover evidence of drug use, take action to get him help. Changes in appetite, rapid weight loss, red and glassy eyes, and falling asleep at inappropriate times could also be evidence of drug use or withdrawal, adds Dr. Cidambi.

 

What can parents do to encourage healthy coping mechanisms?

If you notice signs of drug use in your child, getting her to therapy is always helpful–and treatment centers, if necessary. But there are also steps you can take at home to help your teen cope. “We can help by putting their stressors in perspective and helping restore balance with recreational activities and hobbies they can get into, and talking about issues that bother them, and boosting their self esteem,” Dr. Cidambi says. “If we don’t boost self esteem, we are opening the door for them to lean on drugs and alcohol or bad relationships.”

 

How can parents create an open dialogue with teens about mental health?

Make the consequences of drugs and alcohol part of daily conversation from a young age. What age is right for your child? When he starts asking questions, Dr. Cidambi says, or when there’s a teachable moment for you to leverage. News of an overdose or a character smoking on a TV show can provide opportunities for you to open a conversation.

“Talk about why people use drugs and the risk of addiction, and address the consequences of using drugs, like the legal issues and medical problems,” Dr. Cidambi says. “Keep an open dialogue where they can share with you the peer pressure or stress they face, or what goes on at school. They should be able to talk about anything with you.”

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