Whether you are one to hide from stress or embrace it, stress if a fact of life. This is a great time to think about how your stress affects everyone in the family- both adults and youth. Stress generated by an approaching deadline or the need to get the grass mowed before it rains can be a motivating factor. What is called “distress,” may be generated by an accident, job loss, illness, change or event that can disrupt physical and emotional well-being. Either can—and usually will—affect family life. By teaching youth how to manage stress in a healthy way, they will build the skills to deal with life’s little setbacks.
While younger children may be shielded from some stress, teenagers who pick up on distress in the family should not be expected to handle it as their parents or other adults do. A teenager is typically becoming aware of the challenges of life, but usually will prefer to watch as parents and older siblings manage stress. This time of year specifically, high school seniors are weighing the options of what to do after graduation- which can be a new type of stress. A teen’s observations of how family members cope with stress can be a helpful learning process.
Parents are advised as they are confronting family distress to stick to the facts, but try not to overload children with too much information, and to listen to a teen, but try not to pry. Parenting a teenager and leading him, her—or them—through stress and inevitable life changes is similar to the role of a coach. The team is in the home (rather than on the field), and the goal is nurturing family relationships. This month, create a plan for how you manage your stress and what you can do to help your family learn stress management.
Adapted from “Family Members Handle Stress Differently”, KSRE Publication.