What Is Teen Stress And How Is It Affecting Your Child?

Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault

Do you have a teenager that seems to be struggling? Maybe they seem to be having trouble at school, or they're not acting the same with the family or with friends. Maybe they seem like they're overwhelmed all the time or just not like themselves in some way. If that's the case, your teen may be experiencing stress, but in a way that they just can't handle on their own. Stress in small doses can be good, but in larger doses, it can be extremely dangerous.

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What Is Stress?

Stress is a reaction within the body that happens when any kind of change occurs that requires a type of response. If they have a difficult class, it could cause stress. If their parent is having a new baby, it can cause stress. It is making the basketball team, or the soccer team can cause stress. In effect, just about anything that's going on in your child's life is going to be a possible cause for stress and that's going to cause them problems as they continue to work through their education. Think about it, is anything ever going to decrease their level of stress?

Stress For Teens

For teens, there's always something new happening in their lives, and they rarely have control over the things that they want in their lives. Often they're being told what they need to do by teachers, parents, coaches and other authority figures. This gives them very little autonomy, but a whole lot of responsibilities and each of those responsibilities has the potential to make them even more stressed out. So, what do they do? They just keep trying and just keep pulling along, trying to make it through just a little bit more.

As they continue through the school year and from one school year to the next things, only continue to get harder, and their responsibilities continue to get more and more intense. They have pressure from everyone around them to do good in school and to graduate. They may have pressure to perform well on a sports team or in an academic program. They might have pressure to get a job or to perform well at that job. They likely also have pressure to be a good friend and a good family member to those people in their lives. Some teens may also have the added pressure of volunteering with different organizations outside of school.

They are trying to juggle each of these different roles, and the responsibilities that come along with each most definitely could cause stress in your child's life. And yet, most of them just keep pushing forward and trying to handle it all without saying a word. Some teens do push back against all the pressure, but all too often they're blamed for being difficult or for letting someone in their lives down. This just increases the level of stress that they're experiencing, rather than helping to relieve it like they think it will.

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How Stress Is Affecting Your Teen

So, now that we've established that your teen is most definitely experiencing stress, it's time to take a look at what that stress is doing to them. Because the reality is that stress is going to continue to tear them down more and more until someone helps them along. No matter what you do or how you try to help them, that stress is always going to be there. It's about making sure that the pressure they experience is handled in a healthier way to resolve the problem.

When your teen experiences stress, they are decreasing their immune system. This means that they have a higher chance of getting sick with absolutely anything. The big problem is that they're spending their days in school and likely their evenings with peers either getting together with friends or engaging in extracurricular activities. Each of these puts them in contact with even more germs and bacteria that, normally, their body would have no problem fighting off. These are germs for things like the common cold, for example. But when their immune system is compromised because of too much stress, it leaves them susceptible to more illness.

The even bigger problem is that more illness means that they're going to miss school or activities or that if they don't miss they're going to have a harder time learning and keeping up because they're not feeling their best. That increases their stress even more, which is going to make them even more at risk for feeling sick or catching different illnesses. It's a never-ending cycle that's repeated when it comes to the next aspect of stress; their brains just aren't functioning at optimum levels.

When you're stressed, it's difficult to concentrate on the things that need to be done because you feel like you're being pulled in a million different directions. You feel like you just can't finish this project, but you have to. And you also have to finish twenty other things. For a teenager who is feeling stress, their brain just can't carry out all of those tasks, and it's likely going to feel foggy. This is compounded when you add that stress can affect sleep, and not getting enough sleep is going to make the brain foggy as well.

Not getting the right amount of sleep will make it harder to remember information, and it makes it harder to learn new information. All of these things together mean that your teen is going to struggle in school, despite the level of pressure that they're putting on themselves to do even better and better. They'll have a hard time grasping the material, and that's going to cause problems for their grades as well as for their mental state. Because the problem is that their stress over doing well will make them so badly and doing badly will cause them even more stress.

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What To Do

It's important that your teenager have coping skills to deal with stress because they're most definitely going to experience it throughout their teenage years and beyond. While in elementary school, your child likely experiences minimal stress, and while that increases through middle school, it becomes a problem as they enter high school. If they're able to learn good stress coping skills at this point in their lives, they're going to be better prepared for adulthood, and they're going to be able to work through the normal stress that will come up throughout their lives.

Getting exercise is one of the first things that your teenager should be doing. Whether they're involved in some type of extracurricular activity that gets them out and moving or not, it's important that they do something every day that gets them active. Even if it's just walking for 20 minutes or if they're doing yoga or rollerblading.

Making sure they get enough sleep is another important factor, and it can be difficult for teens that feel like there's just too much to get done. They might struggle to get sleep because they're trying to do a little more studying or a little more practicing or finish more of their homework. Getting the right sleep helps prepare them for the next day, however.

Next up, they should have some time to themselves just to have fun. They should be able to balance their schoolwork with some fun time. They should be able to do things like hobbies or activities with friends to help get them out of the house or doing something other than schoolwork, especially when they're feeling overly stressed.

Talking with someone is going to be another important step, and that person could be you, a friend, a counselor at school, or a professional therapist. The most important thing is to make sure that they have someone they feel comfortable talking to whenever they need it.

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Getting The Professional Help Needed

When your child is struggling with stress, it's important that you do whatever you can to help them along. That means getting them in counseling and therapy as early as possible so that you can get a head start on what's bothering them. Your teenager has a lot of pressure and likely a lot of stress, and they don't understand how they could ever get rid of that. To find a therapist that can help them along and make sure you're doing it in a way that's going to be easy for them to follow along with.

Going to therapy can seem embarrassing to a teenager, and that's why online therapy is going to be the easiest way to go. They're more likely to accept the help if they know that none of their friends or classmates are going to know that they're seeing a therapist. That's why BetterHelp is a great option and why it's something that you should be looking into for your teenager. Just get online and schedule an appointment and they'll be able to get the help they need.

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