An essential guide for parents to help tweens break the stress cycle
Raising a child is no cakewalk, and navigating the challenges of growing up can be tough, both for you and your kids. As your children enter adolescence, they may start to feel the pressure of school, friends, and the looming uncertainties of the future.
You’re definitely not alone in this, and we’re here to offer some helpful tips to ease the stress and anxiety that your pre-teens may be feeling. As a fellow parent of a tween, I totally feel you! We both know the struggle is real when it comes to caring for our mini-humans. That’s probably why you’re here, reading this post instead of hiding in the bathroom with a box of chocolates. Trust me, I’ve been there too!
Raising a pre-teen can be tough, but managing their stress doesn’t have to be. As a parent just like you, I completely understand where you’re coming from. We all want the best for our children and their well-being is always a top priority. That’s why I am here to share some practical advice that may help you in supporting your pre-teens as they navigate stress and build resilience for the future.
What is stress?
Let’s talk about stress for a minute before we get into the nitty-gritty of managing it. Stress is a normal reaction to a tough situation – it’s like when your kid has a big test coming up or a big game to play. Stress can actually be good too. It’s called “eustress,” and it can help your pre-teen get motivated, hit their goals, and get things done.
However, there’s another side to stress that can be harmful. This kind of stress is what we call “negative stress,” and it can wear on your kid’s health and happiness. For preteens, there are a lot of things that can be stressors – school, friends, family, and more.
So, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs that your child is feeling stressed out. They might not come right out and say it, so it’s important to know what signs to look for.
Signs of stress in pre-teens
Alrighty, let’s talk about how you can tell if your preteen is feeling stressed out. For ease, let’s break it down into 7 different ways.
1. Changes in behaviour: Are they acting out of sorts lately? Maybe they’re more moody or irritable than usual, or they’re having trouble sleeping.
2. Physical symptoms: Stress can manifest in physical ways, like giving your child headaches or stomachaches. They may also feel extra tired or lose their appetite.
3. Performance changes: If your child is feeling stressed, they might not be doing as well in school or extracurriculars. They could also be less interested in activities they usually enjoy.
4. Negative self-talk: When someone is feeling stressed, it’s common to get stuck in negative thoughts about themselves. Your pre-teen might be doubting their abilities or feeling hopeless.
5. Avoidance behaviours: If your child is avoiding certain situations or activities, it could be a sign they’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
6. Physical changes: Stress can cause all kinds of physical reactions, like sweaty palms or shaky hands, which is fine. But if it begins to manifest into tension in their muscles or experience other bodily sensations then it is a red flag.
7. Increased sensitivity: Sometimes when people are stressed, they’re more sensitive to criticism or rejection. Your pre-teen might be taking things more personally than usual.
Remember, every child is different, so the signs of stress can look different too. Keep an eye out for any of the above changes in their behaviour, and if you’re worried, don’t hesitate to talk to them about it.
Tips for managing stress in pre-teens
Seeing our tweens deal with stress can be tough but the good news is there is a lot we can do to help them navigate through it and maintain healthy mental health.
Talk it out
One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to create a space where your kid feels comfortable opening up to you. The best way to begin is to be open with your kids about your own experiences with stress. This can help your children see that stress is a normal part of life and that everyone experiences it. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings, and be sure to listen without judgement. Sometimes just talking it out can make a world of difference.
Teach ’em how to cope
Encourage your children to take breaks when they feel overwhelmed. Let them know that it’s okay to step away from a stressful situation and take a few deep breaths or go for a walk. Show them healthy ways to manage their emotions, like going for a run, meditating, or getting creative with some art or music. Knowing how to cope healthily can help them feel more in control. Remind them that taking care of their mental health is just as important as taking care of their physical health.
Good food, exercise, and plenty of sleep can do wonders for managing stress. Encourage them to eat a balanced diet, get some exercise each day, and clock in a solid 8-10 hours of zzz’s each night. When they’re feeling good physically, they’ll be better equipped to handle stress mentally.
Build them up
Resilience is key when it comes to dealing with stress. Help them develop resilience by showing them how to set realistic goals and celebrate small wins. Teach them to see setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow, and remind them that mistakes are a natural part of the process.
Mindfulness is all about staying present at the moment. Help your kid practice mindfulness by showing them how to focus on their breath or tune into their thoughts and feelings without judgement. Being mindful can help pre-teens feel more in control and improve their overall well-being.
Surround them with love
Having positive relationships can make all the difference when it comes to managing stress. Encourage your kid to spend time with friends and family who uplift them. Model good communication skills, show support, and shower them with love and affection.
Pre-teens often feel the pressure to excel in school and social situations. Help your child manage expectations by setting realistic goals. Encourage them to do their best, but also remind them that it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them.
Limit the tech
Too much screen time can contribute to stress and anxiety in pre-teens. Set boundaries around screen time and encourage other activities, like reading a book, spending time outside, or enjoying some quality time with loved ones.
Create a calm haven
Creating a calm and peaceful environment at home can also help your pre-teen manage stress. Add some relaxing elements like soft lighting, calming scents, or soothing music. Encourage your child to retreat to this space when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Seek help if needed
Follow your gut. Listen to that nagging feeling in the back of your mind, if you feel something is off. Notice if the behaviour tends to hover longer than it being chucked off as a mood swing.
Seeking professional help is important. A mental health professional can provide the necessary support and guidance to help your child manage stress and improve their overall well-being. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if your child needs it.
Teaching your pre-teen how to manage stress is an ongoing process, but it’s also an opportunity to empower them to take control of their well-being. Help your children identify their own stress triggers and develop coping strategies. Share examples of times when you felt stressed and how you coped with those feelings. Even if you didn’t do a good job at it, share what you did and what you would like to do next time you experience it. Ask them what makes them feel stressed and brainstorm together about different ways to manage those feelings. This can help your pre-teen build resilience and feel more in control of their emotions
Remember your children are watching you. They are constantly learning from you. You are the best role model they can ever get. Practice self-care in front of your kids. Take time for yourself to exercise, meditate, read a book, or do another activity that helps you relax. When your children see you prioritizing your well-being, they will be more likely to do the same.
Parenting is a beautiful journey that comes with a fair share of challenges. As your child enters the pre-teen phase, stress can become a common occurrence. But fret not, as a parent, you can help your child manage their stress and develop essential coping skills. By creating a supportive and empowering environment, teaching healthy habits, and encouraging positive relationships, you can equip your pre-teen with the tools they need to thrive.
Remember, every child is unique, and what works for one child may not work for another. Keep an open mind and be willing to try new strategies until you find what works best for your child. Ultimately, your love, patience, and persistence are the most important factors in helping your child thrive.