4 Steps to Help a Stressed Teenager

Kara Powell | Feb 27, 2014

Photo by Federico Ravassard.

Know a stressed teenager? Me too. Lots of them.

Evidence is mounting that this generation of young people experiences more stress than any previous generation. Not only that, but teenage stress is starting to reach adult levels.

According to a recent survey of 1000 young people ages 13-17 conducted by the American Psychological Association, more than 27% report feeling “extreme stress” in the last year, a number that exceeds adults’ self-reported stress levels.

Here’s a more nuanced look at the stress young people report:

  • Unsurprising to anyone who’s spent time with a teenager recently, the effort required to manage time and balance activities is a "somewhat" or "very significant" stressor to 59% of the young people surveyed.
  • Stress is affecting young people physically. Over 32% of respondents say they experience headaches because of stress.
  • Unfortunately, only about 37% of the teenagers surveyed exercise or walk to manage stress. More common are less healthy activities, such as playing video games (46%) and spending time online (43%).

What can you do to help a stressed teenager?

  1. Beware of what your own stress is communicating. Whether you are a leader or a parent (or both), kids pick up on our stress, and it can increase their own.
  2. Ask them how they are feeling about their schedule and pace. This is a question I regularly ask my 13 year-old son to understand the demands on his time and focus, and navigate potential overloads.
  3. If you’re a parent, talk with your family about specific ways your home can be less stressful. Maybe it means getting more prepared for school the night before, or putting on mellow music right before dinner or bedtime, or creating a weekly schedule that’s in your kitchen so everyone knows what each day holds.
  4. Help them say “no.” Kids are even worse at saying “no” than adults because they don’t want to miss out. Help them say “no” to activities and invitations that are good but not great.

I’m scared about the stress trajectory for both our young people and our culture. I want to do something about it.

Help your stressed teenager by first thinking about your own stress levels. (tweet that)

Want more practical parenting tips? Check out our Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family.

The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family

Question: What else do you do to lessen stress for kids?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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