A few tips for helping stressed-out teens

Okanagan psychiatrist Dr. David Smith looks at why teens are under stress and some things parents can do to help

With the new school year well under way, children and teens will feel more stress and pressure. A certain amount of stress in our lives is normal and helps drive achievement. In fact, learning how to cope with stress and deal effectively with the demands of life are important skills that teens and young adults must develop to have happier, healthier, more productive and resilient adulthoods.

Kids have always experienced stress. In my practice, however, kids seem more stressed than ever — by academic demands, by parental pressure, by the constant social media presence in their social relationships, and by their own expectations of themselves and their fears for the future.

The 2013 McCreary Adolescent Survey of 60,000 B.C. youth found that 83 per cent of all youth said they had been stressed in the last month. Girls are more likely than boys at every age to report extreme stress — feeling so stressed that it prevented them from functioning properly. When stress builds with no release, it can lead to anxiety, depression and despair.

As the school year starts, here are seven proven steps that you and your kids can take to better cope with stress this year.

1) Have a family routine: The more reliable and regular the routine at your home, the more stable and in control your children will feel. Regular times for getting up, going to bed, doing homework, having dinner, doing chores and engaging in extracurricular activities all enable children to create a schedule for themselves and know what to expect. Numerous research studies have shown that regular sit down family dinners are associated with increased self-esteem and school success and lower rates of eating disorders, alcohol and substance use, and feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide.

2) Limit and monitor screen time: Social and peer group issues for many youth cause greater stress than academic pressure. In previous generations home was a refuge from that social stress. Now social media amplifies that stress 24/7. Set limits for time spent online, and monitor what is happening with your youth online. Talk to your kids about how to be safe and how to conduct themselves with social media.

3) Ensure enough sleep: Young children need at least 12 hours of sleep a night and teenagers at least nine or ten, but many are getting much less. Adequate sleep reduces stress and increases coping skills. Don’t let kids sleep with their cell phones or laptops as late night screen time, as well as texts and emails, prevents good quality sleep. Limit caffeinated drinks; make sure you model good sleep habits, too.

4) Get regular exercise: One of the best ways to manage stress is to move. Recent studies have found that activity out-of doors, such as walking or running in nature, has great stress reduction power too.

5.) Don’t over schedule: A certain amount of extracurricular activity is good for kids — it teaches them new skills, creates new friends, gives them exercise. But so many young people have so much on their plate they become overwhelmed and exhausted. Give them unscheduled downtime, too.

6) Engage in activities that provide personal value and meaning: Studies show that engaging in activities that help youth feel connected to the world and provide personal value and meaning are good for stress reduction. This can mean something different for everyone and can take the form of religious worship, nature walks, meditation, uplifting art, music or books or any other spiritual connection that helps provide purpose and perspective to our lives.

7) Learn some key stress-reduction skills: Cognitive behavioural techniques (CBT) like relaxation breathing, visualization, mindfulness meditation, thought stopping, “chunking” big tasks into smaller, doable pieces and other skills can help manage stress. In the next column, I will talk in depth about some key CBT skills that we all should know how to do.

In the meantime, check out these B.C. links for helpful articles and tips on stress and youth: keltymentalhealth.ca; anxietybc.ca; healthlinkbc.ca; mindcheck.ca. The BC chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association has information and an interactive stress test; see cmha.bc.ca/files/stress.htm.

Dr. David Smith is an adolescent and adult psychiatrist and the medical director of the Okanagan Psychiatric services for Interior Health. This series of columns on common child and youth mental health issues is a project of the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substances Use Collaborative. The Collaborative involves multiple individuals, organizations and ministries all working together across B.C. to increase the number of children, youth and their families receiving timely access to mental health services. The collaborative is jointly funded by Doctors of B.C. and the government of B.C. and recently won a national award for mental health initiatives given by the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Richard Brodeur discussing his paintings with the executive director of the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan Kirsteen McCulloch. (Contributed)
Former Canucks goalie King Richard’s art displayed at Kelowna gallery

Richard Brodeur starred in the Vancouver Canucks’ 1982 Stanley Cup run

A confirmed case of COVID-19 at Vernon’s Silver Star Elementary School has been reported. (Google Maps)
COVID case confirmed at Vernon elementary school

Member of Silver Star Elementary community self-isolating at home; letter sent to parents Nov. 28

Vernon cowboy Jaret Cooper, shown competing at B.C. High School Rodeo event earlier in 2020 in Quesnel, hopes to defend his Junior World Finals rodeo saddle bronc title next month. (Cassidy Dankochik - Black Press Media)
Vernon cowboy hoping to defend world title

Jaret Cooper has qualified in saddle bronc for the Junior World Finals rodeo in Texas

Members of the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP paid tribute Saturday to Const. Marc Hovingh of the Ontario Provincial Police, who was killed in a shooting Nov. 19, 2020. (RCMP photo)
Vernon RCMP honours fallen Ontario police officer

Const. Marc Hovingh was killed in a shooting on Manitoulin Island, Ont. on Nov. 19

Movie crews filmed a holiday parade in Summerland in July. The parade, filmed on Main Street in Summerland, is for the movie, The Christmas Yule Blog. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

Real Canadian Superstore in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
Kelowna Superstore employee tests positive for COVID-19

The last day the employee worked was Nov. 23

Steve French caught the halo moon on his camera on Saturday night. (Steve French Facebook)
Did you see the halo moon last night?

The halo is actually millions of tiny ice crystals

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP issue warning after woman assaulted while walking in Kelowna

On Saturday, the unknown man ran up and grabbed her in an inappropriate manner before fleeing

Most Read