While working on the thesis for my master’s degree, I followed a group of 13- to 16-year-olds for two years. I was astonished by the amount of stress affecting their young lives. Talking to them, as well as to specialists, teachers and parents, and taking from my own experience as a mother, I identified five stress management tips that parents of teens should know.
When my daughter Ransom turned 10, she became a tween seemingly overnight — complete with mood swings and a reluctance to share her feelings with me. I had read an article about therapists taking counseling sessions to the park rather than the office and decided to give it a try. Our first walk therapy session began quietly, with mostly small talk, but it quickly moved into a discussion of the major factors that were stressing her out. Now we walk at least twice a week for 30 minutes to an hour. Sometimes she has issues she wants to work out, and other times we brainstorm about fun project ideas — like the short stories we are co-writing for her sisters’ Christmas presents.
This is another activity you can do with your children, or you can teach them the basics and let them try it on their own. If your kids are into technology, a meditation app like Headspace might get them excited about the idea, but you can also start simply by sitting in a quiet spot and breathing or doing what I call the “be meditation.”
- Find a comfortable seated or reclined position.
- Make sure all electronics are turned off and there are no distractions like inquisitive pets nearby.
- Close your eyes and bring your focus inward.
- Develop a deep, steady breath in which the inhales originate from the navel and the entire chest inflates before exhaling from the nose.
- Inhale, thinking the word “be.”
- Exhale, thinking of an adjective you want to become, like happy or calm.
- Remain here for five minutes.
The age-old idiom “you are what you eat” applies to our children. Foods loaded with artificial flavors, preservatives and sugar are nutrient deplete and inflammatory and negatively affect our children’s mood, sleep and mental clarity. Conversely, whole foods like vegetables, fruits and lean protein invigorate and nourish our children, allowing for better digestion and mental and physical performance. If your children are eating healthily, they’ll be better prepared to cope with stress.
There is a ton of research about how exercise positively affects our mood and, due to the release of certain hormones and the detoxifying effect of sweating, exercise holistically reduces anxiety and depression. Encourage your children to play sports — which also helps with socializing — and to be active regularly, whether it is doing yoga in a studio, swimming in the ocean or biking to school.
Children want and need structure. Not overly committed calendars or parents ruling with an iron fist, but an actual framework that provides a sense of stability in the home. To provide this structure, parents should be consistent with rules and establish weekly rituals like Sunday brunch.
Becca Edwards is a holistic health coach/advocate and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (bewellbecreative.com).