Last week Thurs. evening, the Coalition for Placer Youth, a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting youth substance abuse prevention strategies, held a workshop for teens and parents on stress management at St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Rocklin.
A Center for Disease Control study on Childhood Stress with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, explains there are three types of stress: positive, tolerable and toxic. Toxic stress is chronic and can lead to health issues. According to the report updated in May 2011: “Toxic stress results from adverse experiences that may be sustained over a long period of time. This kind of stress can disrupt early brain development, compromise the functioning of important biological systems, and lead to long-term health problems.” Along those lines, consider texting and social media as an example of chronic teen stress that can be like peer pressure on steroids and inspire high anxiety.
Theresa Thickens, Psy.D., is a marriage and family therapist working out of Lincoln and serves as the Chair of the Placer County Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Board. She specializes in parent/child and couple relationship counseling and crisis counseling working with first responders personnel and was a featured speaker at the workshop. As a part of this workshop she offers excellent tips for parents to help teens recognize and respond to stress as a healthy life skill. “What really stresses us out is not sharing personal issues,” she said, “So learning how to engage in effective communication is key. The more you hold stuff inside, the more stressed out you are.” According to Thickens, listening and self expression skills are a vital life skill.
Teen stress management tips
- Practice listening. Authentic listening requires full attention, and distraction comes across as disinterest.
- Repeat what you heard the other person say. People need to be heard, and repeating what you heard expressed is a form of validation.
- Empathy is critical. It is important that whether your agree with it or not, you need to understand their point of view.
- Do not take what you are hearing personally. When a person, especially your teen, is expressing hostility towards you or others, do not take it personally. Listening and validating what you heard said is not the same thing as being in agreement.
- Don’t interrupt and talk over the other person. When you are interrupting the message the other person receives is “it’s all about me”
- Keep it brief. Don’t allow the expression of your point of view to become a lecture.
Thickens offers one more good thought to consider when it comes to relating to your teen: “If you want your teen to care about what you think, then you need to listen to them first,” she said.