Adolescence is incredibly stressful. Bodies are changing and hormone levels are skyrocketing. These internal changes, coupled with the tremendous external pressure that our culture produces, place an inordinate amount of stress on kids. Unfortunately this sometimes results in kids gravitating to dangerous behaviors, such as smoking, as a way to cope with stress levels. As parents, we may often feel like screaming when we get the dismissive roll of the eyes or condescending sneer, but this is a time when our kids need us. Here are a few ideas on what we can do to help ease our kids through this transitional period.
It's important for your kids to know you're their biggest cheerleader. Start conversations and show them you care about what's happening in their lives. Remember that a minor issue to you is often a big deal to your kids, so refrain from judging. We know that one pimple is not the end of the world, but your 12-year-old daughter may feel differently.
When you and your kids are talking, listen actively to everything that they say. Make it clear that you are listening; focus on them and let them finish talking before asking any questions. Active listening will ensure that you not only fully understand what is happening in your child's life, but that your child knows you genuinely care.
Your kid finally opened up to you about something stressing them out in their lives. Now it's your turn to respond. Offer them judgment or become angry and it will be a long while before they open up to you again. Stay calm and let them know you appreciate them sharing. If you need to walk away and calm down before you respond, do it. Expressing anger in the moment almost always does more harm than good.
Kids learn first and foremost from their parents. They see what you do to handle stressful situations and more often than not, act in a similar fashion. Keep this in mind the next time you're tempted to go on a public rant about your job or you find yourself stomping around the house. If you don't want your kids acting that way, don't do it yourself.
Seek Additional Help
If there is something going on in your child's life-perhaps a dangerous relationship or a drug or alcohol addiction, or simply bad grades and a bad attitude that are getting worse, reach out. Ignoring problems only compounds them. It can be difficult to admit to yourself, let alone others, that you don't know how to solve your child's issues, but the more important thing at stake is that your child is relying on you. Find them the answers they need, even if it means going outside the home.
Helping kids with the stress of their daily lives will help them realize there are coping methods that don't involve harming their bodies. For more tips and information on Active Parenting programs, join our mailing list below.
Pioneer educator Dr. Michael Popkin is the founder of Active Parenting Publishers and is the author of many award winning video-based parenting education programs. An expert in his field, Dr. Popkin earned a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Georgia State University and has served as Director of Child and Family Services at an Atlanta hospital.