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Stress Management for Kids and Teens

By: Behaviorally Speaking

Mom in blue shirt comforting stressed out teenage son in white shirt

About this Podcast Episode

On this episode, Angela and Kristin talk about how stress doesn’t just show up in adults but can be felt by kids and teens too. They discuss what stressors are common, what stress looks like at these ages, and ways to manage it at home.

About the Hosts

Angela Nelson, Ed.D., BCBA, and Kristin Bandi, MA, BCBA, are Board Certified Behavior Analysts with expertise on human behavior and child development. They spend their days working with parents and caregivers of both typically developing children as well as children with learning, social, and behavioral challenges, or developmental disabilities. This podcast is brought to you by RethinkCare

If you need support as a parent or caregiver of a child, we encourage you to ask your Human Resources team if RethinkCare is a part of your employer-provided benefits.  RethinkCare reaches millions of lives globally through partnerships with top organizations and Fortune 1,000 companies.


Angie: Hello and welcome to our thirty fourth episode of Behaviorally Speaking. I’m one of your hosts Angela Nelson, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and mother of two.

Kristin: And I’m Kristin Bandi also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and mother of three. Hey Angie, how are you?

Angie: I am good I’m actually looking out at our pool right now with the raindrops. It’s literally still raining in Southern California again.

Kristin: Wow, this is amazing.

Angie: Yeah I know I mean it’s so it’s funny because my husband I was just looking earlier Um, he was just starting out there and it’s a funny California phenomenon where it’s we’re it’s still very interesting and novel to us. So, we’re like, what look it, look at it, looking out.

Kristin: What is this stuff falling from the sky? What is it?

Angie: Yeah, but we’re starting to get more accustomed to it because we’re getting so much rain. Yeah, wow, that’s crazy. We’re just all sunshine over here although actually that’s not true. We did go we I took my kids my kids are on spring break this year this year this week and so I took my older two to Bush Gardens yesterday and that was a lot of fun. But, so, Florida is known for like really big rainstorms, but they only last for like fifteen or twenty minutes, so we actually got stuck at a ride we were right at the end like ready to get on the ride and here comes this big old storm and then it lasts for like fifteen minutes they shut down the ride and everyone’s like wondering what’s going on and then boom sunlight and then you’re good for the rest of the day.

Kristin: Oh wow.

Angie: So yeah, it’s very bizarre. We get it in the summer a lot which it was kind of weird that it happened. It’s like known in the summer like every day it’s like the afternoon shower and it just lasts for like twenty minutes or so and then it’s that’s it. So, huh that’s like really to the humidity I think right know that’s exciting to me just you know don’t we don’t get there. Well, um so our topic has nothing to do with that turning into that that that topic actually that we’re gonna be kind of dissecting today. We are gonna be talking about childhood and kind of teen stress and stress management. So, you know why are we? Why are we talking about this one we hear about stress all the time with adults. And believe it or not kids and teens can get stressed out too and certainly the kind of examples of stress are going to look different for that age group than compared to parents to parents and you know adults in general but some of the examples of stress In the younger populations are things like worrying about school managing too many responsibilities, maybe they’re feeling a little overscheduled with sports and clubs problems with friends that are popping up going through those body changes in puberty and transitions. To maybe a new grade or a new school. Maybe even having a new sibling and then you can kind of go all the way up to more substantial stressors so things like unsafe housing or experiencing homelessness, navigating family separation, divorce, financial instability. And so on and so with all the talk around kids’ mental health these days this topic really slides right in there.

Kristin: Yeah I really like this one and I was thinking about this this morning in that I feel like a lot of us as parents associate stress with adults only right? I don’t know that everybody even thinks about like wow I wonder if my kid is stressed. So, I feel like we might say like I wonder if my child is nervous or worried or frustrated right? But I feel like stress in general is not always something that we hear associated with children and teens. So, I think it’s a really important one?

Angie: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Kristin: Yeah, so before we really get into some of the tips that Angie and I created for kind of working through stress with your kids It’s important to talk a little bit about well, how do we know if our child is stressed out right? Like how do we know that they’re being impacted by some of the things that Angie just mentioned so a few ways that we can identify stress in our children. I’ll start with younger kids and then Angie can talk a little bit about the teens. But so, for our younger kids we might start to notice maybe a decrease or an increase in appetite. So maybe some of those big changes regarding appetite or the same thing for sleep so an increase in sleep or a decrease in sleep so you could be seeing maybe some new sleep disturbances that you hadn’t seen in a while like nightmares or maybe you’re seeing bedtime wetting or new fears that are emerging. So, all of a sudden your child is really clingy; they want to be with you. They don’t want you to leave the room at night. They don’t want to be alone in their room anymore. So, some of these big changes if you’re noticing those also obviously maybe a more obvious one might be a difficult time controlling their emotion. So maybe there are getting upset more frequently. They seem to be getting upset by things that maybe they weren’t in the past. So therefore, you might see some different behaviors that are kind of coming back or some old behaviors coming back right? Some of those tantrums or challenging behaviors that you used to see and then finally maybe if your child is shying away from some of those activities that they really liked before so their’ sports or their extracurricular school refusals a big one that we start to see so really keeping an eye on your kids and seeing okay are we are seeing any big changes here and that might be attributed to increased stress levels.

Angie: Yeah, absolutely yeah, sometimes when we look at teens too sometimes stress manifests in similar ways to how it did when they were younger but sometimes it’s got its own unique characteristics as they get older. When it comes to teens again decreased or increased appetite sleeping same sort of thing we might see headaches stomachaches or other kind of unexplained illnesses or essentially some physical issues, physical pain, or something where it’s not really attributed to an actual illness of some kind, um, general anxiety or inability for them to relax difficulty controlling their emotions again. Just like with kids maybe some withdrawal and neglecting responsibilities and just an overall lack of motivation. So just some things to look out for are to be kind of on the watch for it might be indicating. There’s some stress going on.

Kristin: Yeah, yeah, and I feel like with teens it almost more closely resembles What we might experience as adults. It seems to kind of look a little bit more similar and something that I guess I didn’t mention with younger kids is the stomach aches I feel like that is something that we might notice in in little ones if they’re feeling particularly stressed out and sometimes that can get mixed up with nervousness for little kids like the butterflies in the belly might be like oh I have a stomach ache. So, I mean it may not be stress. It might be more like nervousness, or you know particularly scared to do something new, but Yeah I think that’s a good one to mention. Also.

Angie: Yeah I remember when I was a kid I think my mom said it was second or third grade every day before school I’d have a stomachache and yeah and it was definitely nervousness. But I think it was just the transition to school because as soon as I arrived I was totally fine.

Kristin: Interesting.

Angie: And so, after a point they were just like okay, you’re just the nervous Nellie you just? yeah so I don’t know some kids are like that and now you know it manifests in different way is maybe more like a headache or things like that. But yeah, it’s interesting. One of my kids is kind of like that too. She, that’s how it manifests for her as little tummy. so yeah.

Kristin: Yeah, we get that too. Parker’s just like that he gets the kind of nervous belly for things that are new. We’ve talked about this, and I’ve probably mentioned it on the podcast too. But um, but yeah I could see later on in life for him when he gets a little too much on his plate I think that we might have to should use a lot of the strategies that we’re going to go through today for him because I think he might need a little bit more support in managing and keeping that stress at a lower level. Yeah, all right?

Proactive Strategies to Reduce Stress in Younger Kids

Kristin: So yeah, speaking of the tips to manage stress so, let’s look at what we’ve done before and in previous episodes we’ve broken it down by younger kids and then older kids so we’re going to do that again today where we break down the little ones first and talking a little bit about some proactive strategies to start out so proactive means before right? So before maybe some of that stress is occurring there are some ways that you as parents can support your kids in hopefully reducing the stress.

Stress Thermometer

Kristin: So, one of the big ones and that I like, and I actually just coincidentally talked about this on a parent call right before this which is interesting.

Angie: Oh perfect.

Kristin: I know, we talked a little bit about the stress thermometer and so basically it’s a way of you know, creating some sort of visual support for your child but saying you know where is your stress level and you could do a thermometer or you could really do any sort of visual that that might be ah your child might find cool right? So, it could be a thermometer So It’s like okay if you’re at the bottom of the thermometer things are going well but as we as we kind of fill in that thermometer that means our stress level is increasing. Um, I’ve used something similar to this for like emotional regulation of a volcano. So, it’s like you’re at the bottom of the volcano. But maybe you’re at the top of the volcano to erupt but you could do the same thing for stress management. So, the idea is helping your child recognize their feelings of stress right? So right now, I’m not feeling stressed at all I’m feeling great all as well. But then when I’m very stressed out what does that look like and what does that Feel like for me so that can be a really helpful tool.

Deep breathing

Kristin: Yeah, a couple others that you could do ahead of time is practicing the deep breathing this resonates with some kids some kids are like no. I don’t you know, not feeling it. But I think you know your kid best. So, you know? Yeah, they’ll really like the deep breathing you can certainly do this with them but really working through like let’s just take five deep breaths right? Like we’re feeling a little bit like we’re getting to that point. Let’s take some deep breaths and let’s see how that feels that can be a really helpful tool.

Make Time for Family and for Quiet

Kristin: Another one that’s really important is making time for family bonding and then also time for quiet so in in today’s day and age I feel like we’re always at least I feel this way, especially with three kids that I’m always doing something I’m always on the go and I always have like sometimes we have jampack days where I feel like my kids don’t have the opportunity to just like be with themselves and maybe their thoughts and their toys and all that so where you can I think setting aside some time if it’s on the weekends or at least maybe twenty to thirty minutes each day where you say this is quiet time. This is your time for yourself and reflecting and I think that works really well for the younger kids and that can go all the way up to the older kids too.

Angie: Yeah I was going to say that for that one in particular with the instant gratification of the screens and the tablets and all you know kids are just constantly needing some sort of stimuli and so I feel like there’s a lot of collateral benefits of benefits of this concept of Just having time for quiet be alone time. You know that’s totally unrelated to decreasing stress I think it’s just good in general good practice. Um for kids and then as you get older you can implement that to your daily life.

Kristin: Well, if you think about it too. It’s it. You’re asking a child to do something that is totally foreign to them if you never have this quiet time there and then all of a sudden you’re like you know what? I think you need to take a break. You need to take a deep breath and they’re like what do you mean? you know like I don’t like I don’t even know what that is.

Angie: Yeah, there like guess a punishment.

Kristin: You’re sending into my room. You know it’s like no I just need you to just stay take a minute right? But if they’re never exposed to this moment or even knowing what to do in that moment. You’re going to get a lot of pushbacks. So yeah, a really important proactive strategy there.

Sleep Monitoring

Kristin: Okay, let me try that again and then just a couple other proactive strategies that might be helpful so monitoring sleep. So sometimes this is easier said than done for little ones but helping your child get at least nine to twelve hours of sleep can be really beneficial for kids that are six to twelve years old so trying to get all that sleep in.

Physical Activity

Kristin: And then the other one is physical activity so trying to get some have your child doing something physical to reduce some of that stress I’d like to think about stress as like a balloon, you’ve probably thought about this Angie before I’m sure. So, like if you think about a balloon right? And maybe even for your kids you could say okay, so let’s blow up this balloon and then when you do physical activity right? Let’s do some jumping jacks or lets you know, do a sport and maybe we slowly let some of the air out of the balloon so we can show your kids like oh look, you know this the stress goes away when you do some more of this physical activity and maybe the same thing for sleep right? So, the balloon’s deflating and then maybe you wake up and then boom your balloon is deflated and you’re ready to kind of fill it back up for the day.

Angie: Yeah I like that yeah use that visual.

Kristin: Yeah, thought about that one last night middle of the night.

Angie: Ah, but like we talk about that a lot like yeah you know at 3 A.M. I create I created this really great strategy I’m going to implement it with this family.

Kristin: I know, and I just feel like I need to write it down to her I’ll forget, but my I my little one is still not two yet so we still get those wonderful night wakings every now and then and last night was one of them where I was like oh you know good stress management strategy for kids might be so random.

Staying Aware and Asking Questions

Kristin: Ah yeah, okay, so then just the last one here before we get into some and some reactive strategies. Um I think staying aware and asking questions can always be really helpful with your kids. So maybe even using that balloon idea you could even say like what fills up your balloon right? Like how does your balloon get full and how do we release that? So, I think just bringing your kid into the fold can be really helpful here.

Angie: Yeah I like these are these are great kind of healthy habits to implement now and they all can transition nicely to when you become a teen and an adult too.

Kristin: Oh yeah.

Reactive Strategies to Reduce Stress in Young Children

Angie: Sticking with younger kids now certainly it’s unrealistic to think that we’re always going to be able to stave off all stress and so on there’s going to be a time or many times where they are going to get stressed regardless of how much we roll out the proactive strategies right? So, what do we do reactively when that stress arrives and you’re just not able to kind of keep it at bay.

Enjoy nature

Angie: So, some of the research there’s actually quite a bit of research that shows that people that live in more green spaces have lower rates of anxiety depression stress and so on So there’s a lot of there’s a big push now to just get outside. Go outside in nature kind of ah help to kind of immerse yourself in it. It can be helpful to reduce some stress.

Encourage going to trusted adults for support

Angie: Helping parent kids to and encouraging kids to go to a trusted adult to get support sometimes kids just feel better if they get a hug from a loved one or a parent. Um and so you know, being able to feel that kind of physical safety and so on can be helpful.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Talk about thoughts and feelings

Angie: Talking about it, so talking about thoughts feelings and behavior. This is something if you’re familiar with more traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). So, kind of talk therapy in general Some of these things can start to be helpful for kids, especially if they get it a little bit older. Um Kristin and you and I were talking about. An example, we’re like hey this looks this kind of sounds like CBT where um, maybe your child’s current thinking is okay, our child our teacher gave us a quiz I’m feeling ah, the feeling is I’m feeling stressed and then the thought that they might have, or might have immediately go to is I’m going to fail and then the behavior is I’m not going to try because I’m going to fail right? But we can help them reframe that a little bit so maybe the teacher gave them the quiz. They’re feeling stressed out, but we can help them understand they can change their thoughts to I know I’m prepared, or I know I’ve studied and then that behavior could be I’m going to give it my best shot so that’s a way where kids stress is heightened. They might be having these Kind of unhelpful thoughts and it might drive behaviors that might not be the most helpful for them so we can walk them through that, and we can help challenge these maybe irrational thoughts or thoughts that are just not serving them very well so we can start that when they’re young.

Kristin: Yeah I love this one and I feel like this would be so helpful ah to even write it down so there might be and I had a similar conversation with a parent the other day where they’re like my child in the moment wants nothing to do with that conversation right? So maybe do have these negative thoughts and they are feeling stressed but they don’t want to have the conversation I feel like sometimes it can be helpful just to write it down and then say okay, that’s okay, let’s come back to it later and think about how we could have changed our thought process and or in our behavior associated to that thought right And then hopefully the end goal is sure we can do it in the moment and you learn to change your thoughts that that will ultimately change your behavior, but I think a stepping stone to that might be writing it down and then coming back to it is more of like a worksheet exercise and you know and then doing it um doing it that way.

Angie: Um, yeah, it could be just another proactive strategy that you put in your tool belt, and you know if you go to if you go to therapy as an adult too. They have those grids those kind of three column grids of what you know your thoughts feelings behaviors those sort of things and you can kind of challenge What sort of thought is this is this a catastrophizing thought is it an all or nothing you know those sort of things you can really adapt them for kids and they can really start to see oh yeah, okay I just I jumped to conclusions or I was totally catastrophizing and then Like you said and it to your point then hopefully they start to get in that mode. They can start to apply it more in the moment and just say like okay this is this isn’t really helpful right now I need to kind of reframe the way I’m thinking about this.

Kristin: Yeah, exactly.

Proactive Strategies for Reducing Stress in Teenagers

Kristin: Okay, well let’s jump over and talk a little bit about our teens. So, obviously there’s going to be some overlaps between the little ones and our older kids as well. But some of the proactive strategies that we might be able to do for teens I think for our teens It’s going to differ a bit because we can work with them on being more prepared right?

Be Organized

Kristin: So, we know that in in middle school and high school things just in general get more complex. So, if you can and you might even start this with your younger ones. But um, start finding ways for them to be more organized to see like the week ahead right? Like what’s coming up for me and what do I have going on Friday that I might be able to work on Monday or Tuesday so I’m not waiting until the last minute to do that project for example, so I feel like a really good proactive strategy for teens is just teaching that concept of preparation and helping them do that.

Angie: Oh yeah.


Kristin: Oh yeah, um, and then of course you know similar to our little ones we want to focus on exercise or are your teens getting enough exercise this one I feel is a so sticking point for a lot of parents because their teens don’t if you have the teen that doesn’t want to exercise right? I feel like that can be quite challenging where you’re like I know you need to get this physical activity, but you don’t they don’t want to right? So, finding ways or things that interest your teen. So, I think we talked about this on a different podcast or on a different episode but there’s like all sorts of apps that like get kids to exercise and there was like the Pokémon one, Pokémon Go, it was real cool for a while there and that was actually getting like all the teens out and about um so it doesn’t always need to be technology driven but finding however, you can get your teenager to engage in some of these more you know energetic activities can be really helpful So finding what works for your teen. But that might be a good idea to just get them out and moving. Yeah.

Angie: Well, it could be just sports too right? It doesn’t have to be you know lug in our preteen to the gym, but it could be something no like yeah sports or even hey let’s go you’re stressed out, let’s go walk the dog together we can chat a little bit.

Kristin: Um, right.

Angie: And then bada-bing-bada-boom you’ve got your sixty minutes a day you know.

Kristin: Well yeah, and like walking the dog is a great example or a great idea and maybe even as your teen gets older maybe they want to like walk the neighbor’s dogs to make some money right? So, then it’s like you’re making money and you’re walking the dogs or mowing the neighbors’ lawns and stuff like that. So, I think that maybe yes instead of thinking it as exercise she’s thinking like physical activity. What are they doing are they getting at least sixty minutes a day.


Kristin: And then a couple others for our teenagers obviously focusing on sleep I think that this is again more like us kids get older it. It tends to be, but we want to make sure that we help them understand why sleep is so important and then we can really push for at least eight to ten hours of sleep for our teenagers.

Self-Care and Mindfulness

Kristin: And then focusing on self-care and mindfulness. So, I think that this is one where kind of similar going back to our younger kids where we might keep that open door of communication and we just kind of talk with them about these things I think for teens we want to say you know again, maybe going back to the balloon right? Like what fills all what fills up your balloon and how do we let that out and for our teenagers maybe being mindful of their, you know, their stress threshold um, can be really helpful. Um, yeah, there’s actually something I had suggested to a parent a while back and I still use this one a lot helping teens use like a pie chart to help them see like what does their day look like and how much of it is consumed with various activities so we might say okay you know 20% of your day is academics. Hopefully a little more than that right? but you know 50% of your day is academics and then maybe there’s you know 20% is on like social media and but that’s actually what’s causing some of the stressors for this child in particular so we might find some ways if you look at okay, how much is on social media. How much is on stress management or like self-care and stress management. Maybe we see okay, that’s like two maybe we need to increase the self-care stuff and decrease the social media. But the idea here is you’re creating a pie chart for the child or the teen. So, they can see how much time are they spending or how much of their energy are they dedicating to certain things.

Angie: Yeah, that visual I think is really critical. It’s one thing when they hear a parent say come on, get off the phone. Get off your tablet. Whatever it is but when you can actually see oh my gosh I’m spending equal parts, academics and social media or just electronic time. Wow that’s ah, maybe too much for me so might be more meaningful.

Kristin: I think another big piece to this puzzle though is helping teens realize how that social media time impacts their overall stress or their well-being right because I feel like if they don’t make that connection then it’s hard for us as parents to say you’re acting like this so I have an example for my younger one and he’s obviously not a teen but this happens to me a lot with my oldest. So, if I say okay you got to get off the TV like TV amps him up and just makes him a little bit more moody and I can’t and it’s at six It’s hard for me to help him see that connection. But I feel like as a teenager if we can help them make that connection. Then ultimately then they’re make that we can get them to make healthier choices right? So, I know that if I’m on so scrolling through social media for like two hours in a row. Maybe it’s going to impact this or that so I’m not going to do that. So, I feel like that’s another piece to the puzzle here.

Angie: Oh yeah I love that that’s just bringing in that self-awareness piece. You know that there they’ll be able to make connections better when they’re older. So, I think the teen-age timeframe is perfect to start, you know pointing these things out.

Family Bonding (And Quiet Time Too)

Kristin: Um, yes, yeah, exactly and then just a couple others I think for the teens too even though your teen might say they don’t want to spend time with you ultimately, they probably do, a little bit, want to spend time with you and so continue those family bonding moments where you can, you know? is it family dinner is it every Friday night you all do something as a family but it’s still really important for teens to make time for that family bonding and then also the quiet time that we talked about for the kids.

Stress Indicators

Kristin: Yep and then finally I think similar to the kids too. Helping them, helping teens identify indicators that their stress is building so this is something that I know I can I can do this quite well as an adult I can say okay I you know I’ve got too much on my plate I’ve got you know I know that if one more thing happens I might lose my cool but we want to start teaching teens to do that too. So, you know oh I’m not getting enough sleep or I’m not getting enough exercise or I’m not eating correctly and wow as a result I’m not being very nice to my friends this week and again it’s about making that connection for them. So, then they’re going to be more likely to do the healthy habits that are going to ultimately reduce stress.

Angie: Yeah, absolutely I think this and we are going to talk about this in a little bit too but just modeling that so important just that self-awareness um it wasn’t until recently when I really started to dive into my own kind of stress habits and I can now I’m in middle of a maybe a stressful meeting or something and I could just feel my hands kind of wringing like wringing my hands or clenching my fists and or trying to grab onto like a pencil or you know and I’m grasping it really hard and then I’m realizing Oh my God this is how my stress is manifesting. So, I must be stressed right now. My body is telling me so it’s good to kind of bring this awareness to when kids are younger so they can kind of identify it and see those precursors and then do something healthy about it.

Kristin: Yeah, absolutely.

Reactive Strategies to Reduce Stress for Teenagers

Angie: Yeah well that kind of takes us into the reactive strategy. So, pulling up the end here with ah teens and reactive strategies before we dive into our last segment. Um, what can we do here. Kids are our teens are maybe already stressed out so what can we suggest at this point.


Angie: so again, getting out into nature that transcends beyond the kid years into teens and then certainly even into adulthood.


Angie: Journaling can actually be a really effective strategy get it down on paper. Get it out. We can read it. You start to make those connections.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (Thinking About Thoughts and Feelings)

Angie: Cognitive Behavior Therapy as we mentioned from above. So just really thinking about thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; how they’re all interconnected start to maybe kind of really examine those thoughts and feelings and behaviors in yourself and kind of think about that and how they’re tied to your stress level.

Take a Break

Angie: Taking a force break or really committing to um, like you said you know identify indicators that stress is building up and then force yourself to take a break or even structure it into your day teens these days with their cell phones and staff they can put you know, put their schedule Into the calendar and maybe that’s just a specific time I know people actually schedule time for mindfulness and meditation and it doesn’t have to be something formal. It could just be break time so they go outside the go to drink of water whatever it is and um, it’s unbelievable how just a little bit of break time could really be impactful. You come back to your homework, or you come back to whatever you’re doing and you’re feeling a little bit more refreshed. You have a bit more reserves in the tank to continue on.

Kristin: Yeah.

Deep Breathing

Angie: We talked about this earlier I would say even for myself I never really subscribe to the whole deep breathing thing until more recently when I was just I’ve just been really trying to get an ah good. Get some control over the stress going on for me. Um, and so it’s kind of amazing. It does have these physiological impacts where you take a deep breath. It could actually you really do feel it if you commit to it I think it starts in childhood too because once they become teens they might be more inclined to leverage these strategies and they might just be more part of their everyday kind of tool belt to combat stress.

Cut Out Extraneous Activities

Angie: And then lastly cutting out extraneous activities I think this does also go back to helping our kids or our teens identify when they’re overscheduled this day and age I was just talking about this with my mom. She’s a former teacher and she would talk about how kids are so much more scheduled than ever before. Not a lot of downtime just constant going from one thing to the next and multiple sports and you know sports these days are like year-round and if you want to play multiple sports and you got to do them concurrently. It’s crazy so um, helping kids identify that hey you know what Maybe you do need to cut something out. Maybe we need to stagger activities a little bit. Maybe you’re just doing too much. You don’t have enough downtime like we talked about before and in per missioning them saying you know it’s okay if you’re not doing ten sports at one time. So yeah.

Kristin: Oh right? Yeah, that’s the hard one I have found with families that I’m working with because sometimes sports are so socially driven too where it’s like but all my friends are doing that right? But maybe all your friends are not doing the other sport or the other thing that you want to do. So, I think it is about helping kids analyze like okay where am I how am I feeling another one that I actually suggest a lot for this is sometimes parents come to me and they’re apprehensive about their child doing that extra activity because they know that it could impact their stress level, and but their child is insistent on it right? So sometimes what I’ve done is I’ve helped parents set like mile markers of like when. Okay, so when we get to this point we’re going to check back in and see how you’re feeling so we’re going to maybe do that pie chart again but or maybe doing like a stress thermometer or something but so if your child is overscheduled and they’re really pushing back on taking away anything so okay, maybe we still have some check in times just to make sure we’re staying on top of how they’re feeling.

Angie: Oh, I like that, yeah that makes a lot of sense. It’s kind of like okay you’re going to add in this thing but maybe you need to take something else out if we get to that mile marker and we determine that other things are fallen by the wayside or you’re just more crabby or you know that sort of thing.

Kristin: Um, right? Yeah, your grades are dropping or exactly you’re more crabby. You’re not getting enough sleep now like so I think that that can be a nice happy medium for parents and teens.

Tips for Parents to Manage Their Kids’ and Teens’ Stress

Kristin: Okay, so moving on. Obviously, we talked a little bit about okay, what do we see when it comes to stress for kids and teens how can we be proactive and how can we support them through the stress so just diving a little bit deeper about, into how you as a parent can support your kids and your teens we’ve got a few tips for you.

Modal Healthy Coping

Kristin: So, we already mentioned the first one here. But I think this one’s so Important. So obviously we’ll mention it again by making sure that your modeling healthy coping so not only healthy coping but a couple of things that I was thinking about as we were going through the what we were saying earlier is I would urge all of you to think about how do you feel when you’re stressed so similar to what Angie just said like I feel in my fingers and I feel this and that I was actually listening to this was a while back but I was listening to ah, we have to do continuing education for our certifications and there was one that was a psychologist was hosting and he actually was talking about. How do you feel stress and I actually never really thought about like what does my body feel like and so he did like ah an exercise where he said okay, now imagine that you know you get caught up on social media right? like you’re scrolling through Instagram and you’re like oh no I’ve got to get onto my work meeting or something like that and imagine like think about what the signs are in your body in that moment and the audience where there was like a live presentation. So, some people in the audience like ooh I feel it in my chest. My heart starts beating or oh I feel really sweaty, or Angie mentioned oh I feel it in my hands so that if you do that as a parent right? You figure out what, how do I feel stressed then you can give those examples to your child or your teen and then you can support them too. So, then they start to figure out huh. Oh okay, that’s what stress feels like yup and then of course helping to identify well how do you cope? How do you model healthy coping and then the second thing that I was thinking on this is what are you telling yourself as a parent right? So this is actually something I’ve been focused on my thoughts and I’ve never really focused on my thoughts and sometimes I realize like wow that was not a very helpful thought that I just had there but until you actually take a moment to think about what am I thinking you just have these thoughts that come and go and come and go but they really do have a very strong impact on your behavior. So, I would urge everybody to try that one too.

Angie: So yeah, that’s a really important one you know, have you heard there’s this concept of what you tell your you know you kind of believe what you tell yourself like this self-narrative. Yeah, and you can reframe that too to something like I’m going to do my best or I’m prepared you know and you keep using that as a mantra and that’s I think another good helpful coping or just good for modeling our kid for our kids you know that if you’re implementing these sort of things and in your own daily life that could you know rub off on your kids behavior and kind of healthy practices too.

Kristin: Right? Well in total it goes to back to what we said before that we can’t expect our kids to do things that they’ve never seen, or they’ve never practiced and so if they’re not seeing healthy coping coming from their parents or their caregivers then they may not know right? So, the best thing you can do is to model those behaviors for them right?

Angie: Absolutely, even if it feels contrived sometimes you do especially when they’re younger, you got to contrive some stuff and you know we’ve talked about that before like verbally walking through how we make decisions, and you know it’s so all right?

Media Consumption and Knowing When to Stop

Angie: So the next one here as we’re kind of rounding out our tips having open discussions about media consumption and knowing when to stop so this becomes increasingly important as your kids grow up and become teenagers but just having those discussions I think Kristin one of your earlier tips was just being able to kind of identify um, but you know when ah stress is the precursors right? When you’ve got indicators of stress coming up and so have discussions with them. It might also tie back to our tip that we just talked about modeling right? We might even model for them How we identify that we’ve been consuming too much media and what signs we’re identifying as um, you know oh gosh this is where I’m starting to kind of ramp up my stress I need to stop so having open discussions starting in childhood but certainly more important as they get older too.

Reframe Negative Thinking

Kristin: Yeah, exactly and then another one is going to be reframing that negative thinking. So, we just talked a lot about this one, but I feel like this one I want to highlight it because it’s so important so when something that I suggest a lot is if your child says something like oh you know I’m terrible at math right? Then then we might have them come up with you know, something else to say instead. So, hey ah remember that you worked really hard on that or remember that last time that you actually thought you were really terrible at math but then you got an A? You know or what bar are you setting for yourself right? Like oh you have to get an A+ and if you don’t then you’re terrible at math like wait, you know that’s not true. So, I think helping kids’ kind of reframe those negative thoughts can be really helpful and then of course you know modeling that as well. So, making sure that you’re reframing your negative thinking I think this one can be again like Angie said it feels a little ah forced sometimes but you might say like oh no I did X, right? And oh, that how is someone going to perceive me right? But then you might say oh actually oh that’s probably not that bad because then you totally shift your thinking and you do it out loud so, your kids can hear it.

Angie: Absolutely yeah I think that helps address self-consciousness as well too, especially with teenagers. They’re so conscious, self-conscious about when people think of them, and so on, so that could be a good way to model that.

Kristin: Yeah, definitely.

Advocacy Skills to Recognize Burnout

Angie: Just a couple more. Ah, one important one for parents think about teaching advocacy skills so helping kids recognize their own burnout and tell someone um you know, kind of walk them through if you’re feeling and you’re recognizing that you’re feeling burned out. What can you do you can come to me you know I was thinking about this one a few minutes ago when we were talking about the sports how you said sports can be such a social component I’m thinking not only would maybe um, a kid or a teen want to have more sports but sometimes it’s the parents where it’s there. There are certain sports I’m not going to say which that um they’re very intense and the parents get very involved and then their social network is built around their kids’ sports. Um, and so they like to go to all the games and hang out and so on so it might be that our kids need to advocate for themselves and say you know what I don’t want to do this season this season like multiple times a week of practice games and tournaments every weekend like I don’t want to do it anymore. So, can we help our kids advocate for themselves stand up for themselves that’s going to take some self-awareness to realize I’m stressed this is too much so this is kind of be ah maybe a further, more advanced skill but empowering them per missioning them to advocate for themselves so that they can help address their own stress levels.

Kristin: Oh yeah, I totally see this one too in the classroom setting where I think a lot of kids are afraid to ask for help. Especially if it’s like it never will they do it in front of the class right? But even like going to the teacher after and saying I didn’t understand that lesson so, but instead what they do is they might go home and spend four hours on that assignment trying to understand it rather than getting some support from their teacher. So, I think that those go hand in hand as well.

Angie: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good point I didn’t, I wasn’t even thinking about that. But that’s another great way to advocate for yourself, yeah.

Allow Kids and Teens to Work Through Some of Their Own Challenges

Kristin: Yeah, yeah and then speaking of that one I feel like this one goes really nicely with it is don’t swoop in to solve all of their problems as a parent so we obviously I of course I’ve got three kids I want to solve all their problems I don’t ever want them to have issues right? But I know that’s not healthy And so they need to be able to work out their own problems sometimes and we want them to solve these minor issues and challenges and as they do that then they grow confidence and then they can do this more on their own. So, I feel like the ad self-advocacy when it comes to schoolwork that could be a great example to help your child say. What can you do about it right? You didn’t understand that math assignment. How can you solve this problem right? Do you have a buddy in class you could ah you could ask, or do you want to go to your teacher right? And maybe we don’t give them those ideas to start out, but we might say how can you solve it and then maybe give them the ideas if they need it, but I think it’s helpful to allow kids to have the opportunity to work through some challenges.

Angie: Oh yeah I think this is one of my favorites all time my all-time favorite parenting kind of strategies I feel like we weave this into a lot of our episodes. But so important for later in life all right?

Kristin: Yeah, right? Yes, yeah.

Establish Yourself as a Trusted Ally for Problem Solving

Angie: So, getting down to our last two here. Establish yourself as a trusted ally for problem solving. So definitely important. We want to make sure that our kids feel comfortable continuing to come to us. It’s kind of linked to a couple of the other strategies that we talked about but really establishing ourselves. Um, you know if you are stressed we’re here to help you problem solve. We’re here to help you kind of navigate that sometimes kids might be worried. Oh, if I feel like stressed out maybe my parents are going to automatically take things away and you know not like that runs counter to what we previously said because that may be in fact, what needs to be done.

Kristin: Um, yeah, right.

Angie: But um, we want to we want to continue to establish ourselves as kind of a partner right? So, if your child’s really committed, they really don’t want that activity taken away okay, well then let’s think about something else. Let’s think about other ways to reduce your stress if you still really want to do that activity. Um, so yeah, definitely important to kind of establish yourself as a partner in this problem-solving um, kind of scenario.

Kristin: Um, yeah, that’s exactly what I was going to say I feel like you’re right like sometimes the end result is we need to reduce some of the things that they’re doing and maybe they don’t want to get rid of anything right? But I think that the bigger picture here is that your you want to establish yourself as a trusted person for your kids so that they don’t shy away from telling you things right? So yeah I think that’s a really good tip.

Reach Out for Additional Support

Kristin: Okay well moving on to the last one obviously ah we you know we can’t solve all the problems as parents even though sometimes we feel like we um, want to or we can, but I think it’s always helpful to know that there is other support. There’s other professionals that are there so you know if you feel like you’re seeing a lot of those stressors indicators of stressors that we mentioned in the beginning, definitely feel like you can reach out and get some mental health support for your child if you feel like okay I think they just need someone to talk to or I think they really need some individualized support on how to navigate some of these things that are challenging for them and so don’t be afraid to reach out for support and get your kids some additional support if needed.

Angie: All right well thank you everyone for joining us on our thirty fourth episode of Behaviorally Speaking. Our next episode we will be discussing effective communication between parents and kids so a perfect one to come after this episode today until then don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite platform, so you never miss an episode.

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