As the parent of a teen, there’s a new epidemic you need to be aware of.
It’s called S-T-R-E-S-S. And your daughter is NOT immune.
According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America™ Survey conducted in 2013 (link here):
- 31% of teens reported feeling overwhelmed,
- 30% reported feeling sad or depressed,
- 36% reported feeling tired,
- and 23% reported skipping a meal as a result of stress.
Clearly, this is an issue we must take seriously and start having conversations with our young people about.
That’s why today’s installment of my Let’s Talk Teens™ series, is about stress. Namely, what’s causing it.
The Mess Causing Teen Stress
Every time I go to a middle school to teach healthy relationship skills to 8th-grade girls, I always do an activity on the second day where we talk about the stress they have in their lives.
Based on what they tell me, there are four common causes of their stress, but I’m going to break down the first three today and tackle the fourth one next week.
- The need to look perfect
This is one of the reasons why I’m grateful I grew up when I did and not in the Age of Smartphones, Social media & Selfies. We’ve talked about this before. Girls today feel pressure to be “Insta-Cute”at ALL times.
One 8th grader told me that she started wearing makeup in the 6th grade. And not just a little bit. This young lady wore a face full of makeup that took her an hour to apply, every day for TWO YEARS. All because she thought she had to look perfect like the images she saw in the media.
Thankfully, the young lady finally realized that wearing all that makeup didn’t reflect who she was and she stopped. But can you imagine how stressful it is for an eleven-year-old girl to wake-up every day and feel like she must be “made up” in order to fit in?
You’d never want your daughter to heap that kind of stress on herself! The way to make sure she avoids it is to help her feel good in the skin she’s in. Remind your daughter that makeup doesn’t make the girl. Who she is on the inside does.
Besides, an overly made-up version of herself isn’t “perfection.” It’s “make-believe.” And who really wants to hang around somebody who isn’t real?
This is a big one that typically comes from two sources: friendships and relationships.
a.) Friendship drama is more of an issue with middle school girls and happens ALL the time, which I talked about in this post.
I suggest periodically talking to your daughter and gauge the health of her friendships. Do her friends encourage her and speak kindly of her behind her back or online? Do they share her standards and respect her boundaries? If at any point the answer to these questions is “no” then it’s time to consider making new friends.
b.) Relationship drama is more common among high school girls, and as I explain to them, it’s usually the result of sex being introduced into the relationship.
A lot of girls mistakenly believe that sex will cement their relationship, when in fact it does the opposite. And drama ensues. The girls try to hold on to the relationship tighter while the guys look for ways to escape.
Even if the guy is committed to the relationship, things can get pretty dramatic pretty quickly with the possibility of a teen pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection.
And just like I suggested that you periodically gauge the healthiness of your daughter’s friendships, you definitely want to do the same for her relationships.
I wrote an entire chapter of 7 Secrets Guys Will Never Tell You about this topic starting on page 77, so make sure she reads it with each new relationship to serve as a reminder. It will equip her to pay attention to potential red flags and empower her to avoid the stress and walk away knowing that it’s okay to NOT be in a relationship.
- Family Issues
Both middle and high school girls deal with stress as a result of family issues. The ones girls most often confide in me about have to do with:
- Divorce and different standards they have to meet/live up to in different homes.
- Having to take care of and in some instances raise younger siblings while their single parent is at work.
- Dysfunction in the home (i.e. abuse, addiction, etc.)
- Parents expecting them to act more mature and be more responsible, but still not trusting them with more independence.
I understand that stress caused by these kinds family dynamics often can’t be avoided.
But they can be alleviated by giving your daughter the freedom to share her frustrations while you listen without judgment.
Do that, and you can begin to address her stress.
We Must Address Teen Stress!
It’s so sad to witness young people who should be looking forward to their futures, so stressed out by their lives right now.
This is the time when they’re supposed to have fun and be carefree. Instead many are overwhelmed, tired and depressed due to stress.
And from my experience, teens who don’t have a healthy outlet to relieve their stress will often turn to alcohol/drugs, sex and even cutting to medicate their pain.
“When you came, I was having a rough week due to girlfriend problems. When you were talking about self-control, I knew I needed to listen because I always give in to temptation. Friday, I was going to buy weed in order to deal with my stress, but after listening to you, I knew that it wasn’t the way out. I’ve taken your advice and I will not make my situation worse. I’m a girl and my ex-girlfriend and I were sexually active. I now am aware of the choices I make and what consequences I can face, even if it’s not getting pregnant. Thanks to you, I look at life differently and I will make smarter decisions. I won’t say that I won’t ever do these things, but for now, all I’m focusing on are the better things in life, that don’t involve sex, weed or alcohol. I enjoyed hearing everything you said.”
“Even though I am a virgin I have had thoughts of sex in a way where it could relieve my stress. Now when I have thoughts of sex my mind quickly diverts to your face saying something about the dangers that could possibly occur. With all the things that could occur and the funnel examples you showed our class you have convinced me to stay abstinent until marriage.”
“Everyone has a different way to release stress and unfortunately in my case that is cutting. I know this may seem like it doesn’t fit in with what you spoke to us about, but I believe it does. As you said, lots of girls fool around with guys to try to get from them what they didn’t get from their dads. For me, I love my dad and our relationship is pretty good. However, the stress of trying to please him often leaves me feeling empty. When I feel like a failure, like I’ll never be enough to make him happy, I feel that way in all areas of my life.”
As you can see from the quotes above, it’s imperative that we identify, acknowledge and address our teens’ stress.
If we don’t, we leave them to fend for themselves. And the choices they make when they do, often result in even deeper issues and greater stress that may require professional help.
Let’s not let your daughter get to that point.
So, do what I do with my 8th-grade students, and ask your daughter what stress does she have in her life right now.
(Don’t forget to listen without judgment.)
Do that and you’ll begin to address her stress so she can start experiencing the carefree teen life she deserves.
Did your daughter identify any of the three stressors I covered today? If so, which one? Just hit reply to this email to respond.
And don’t forget to come back next week when I tackle the fourth common cause of teen stress that girls have shared with me.
I’m going to warn you now, there’s a possibility that I may step on your toes, but that’s okay. We’ll get through it together.