Youth get stressed, too – how adults can help

Just as adults work with and through their own stress, adults need to be aware of what they can to help youth who are stressed.

Every youth is different and can show signs of stress in several different ways. Photo credit: Pixabay.
Every youth is different and can show signs of stress in several different ways. Photo credit: Pixabay.

It’s no secret that adults often feel the pinch of stress. We get stressed with our everyday tasks at work, at home and even during our leisure activities and hobbies. We know ourselves well enough to identify what is stressing us, how we react to that stress and how to get past the stress and into a more comfortable feeling. But what about youth? Youth get stressed, too, and as adults who have learned to work with and through our own stress, we need to be aware of what we can to help youth who are stressed.

We must first understand what stress is to know how to help youth. According to the KidsHealth website, stress is what you feel when you are worried or uncomfortable about something. Furthermore, this worry in your mind can make your body feel poorly. There is a positive type of stress that can motivate individuals. This article will address the implications and coping skills related to negative stress.

Stress symptoms are not one-size-fits-all. Every youth is different and can show signs of stress in several different ways. Iowa State University Extension suggests in their resource, “Stress –Taking Charge,” signs of stress can be categorized in these ways:

  • Physical – headaches, stomach aches, vomiting, and wetting
  • Emotional – fear, irritability, sadness
  • Behavioral – crying, nervous tics, losing temper
  • Interactions with others – withdrawing, teasing or bullying, extreme shyness

What can you do to help a youth once you have identified that they are stressed? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Let them know that you have noticed their stress: “I see you aren’t eating much dinner, tell me about your day at school.”
  • Ask questions: “How did that make you feel?” “What did you do next?” “What could have been done differently?”
  • Listen: Stop other tasks you might be working on and pay complete attention to the youth. Let them know you are engaged in the conversation by maintaining eye contact, even if they aren’t looking at you. Allow for moments of silence before you respond to ensure the youth has said everything they want.
  • Validate options: Help your child think of options to resolve their stress and support them when they make a decision to act on a resolution.
  • Encourage appropriate stress relief: Remind youth how important it is to eat three meals a day and to stay physically active, even in times of stress. Sleep can also be difficult, but is essential to staying healthy.
  • Be a constant: In a youth’s world, there are several changes that can be experienced. Being a constant in a youth’s life perpetuates the importance of positive adult-youth relationships.

Don’t forget to model the behavior that you expect from youth. Most stress is temporary and won’t last for long periods of time. Overreacting to stress doesn’t often move someone toward a feeling of comfort. “The Story on Stress” from KidsHealth suggests that making good decisions about how you spend your time will help to keep a balanced life. They suggest that taking good care of yourself helps with stress. That includes getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising and taking time to have fun with leisure activities.

For more articles on child development, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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