5 Tips for Helping Your Pre-Teen or Teen Cope with Uncertainty
Managing stress during uncertain times.
It’s no secret that this year has been full of anxiety-inducing worldwide and nationwide events. Adults and kids alike are feeling the effects in their personal lives, struggling to cope with the changes and uncertainty that have resulted from issues like the pandemic. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, serious long-term stress can harm your health, so it’s vital for you to teach your children how to manage their stress and cope with uncertainty in a healthy way. Before you can even begin teaching your child healthy coping skills, however, you must dedicate time to learning and implementing them in your own life. After all, it’s hard to teach your child how to stay calm when you aren’t sure either! Once you’ve managed that, however, there are several ways you can help your child cope with uncertainty. Here are 5 tips for managing a child’s stress that have helped many families over the years.
1. Acknowledge struggles and losses.
A major step in helping your teen or pre-teen manage their stress is to acknowledge their struggles and losses. Don’t try to brush them aside, even if you think you’re helping by trying to be positive. This doesn’t mean you have to wallow in these feelings, but listening to your child’s frustrations makes them feel validated and helps them process their emotions.
You should also be honest about your own struggles and frustrations. Doing this further strengthens that bond and gives your words of encouragement more weight. Your child knows you’re not simply trying to pretend everything is okay. Plus, discussing your emotions openly, honestly, and calmly with your child provides a very real example of what it looks like to process emotions in a healthy way—a vital lesson that they can start putting into practice straight away.
2. Encourage your teen to focus on what they can control.
With so much uncertainty, having a sense of control is more important than ever for your child. They may feel so overwhelmed by all the factors they can’t control that it’s hard to see what they can control. Step in to offer a bit of a helping hand by pointing out a few of the things they still have control over and by encouraging them to focus on those things. Your child may not be able to control whether or not extracurricular activities are canceled this year, but they can control what they do with the extra time on their hands. They can take up a new hobby, go on a run in the neighborhood instead of going to track meets or soccer games, or spend time hanging out with their friends virtually. Similarly, they can’t control if prom is canceled, but they can still make the night memorable and special at home.
3. Stick to your usual routine.
Routines give kids a sense of stability, safety, and normalcy even under the best of circumstances, so they’re a lifeline during times of uncertainty. Even if your kids aren’t going to school every day, stick to a regular dental hygiene and skincare routine. Routines like this give each day a sense of structure and purpose. It’s also wise to keep your regular appointments like going to visit your dentist. You might have to take a few extra precautions in light of COVID-19, but canceling everything just makes it seem bigger and more out of control. In contrast, going to the dentist and other routine appointments is just another way of infusing a bit of normalcy back into your child’s life.
Plus, since stress can negatively impact oral health, it’s wise to make sure their teeth and gums are staying healthy. It may seem small, but sticking to these daily routines and regular appointments can help them feel like everything is going to be okay.
4. Help your teen discover a healthy outlet for their stress.
One of the keys to managing stress is finding a healthy outlet—an activity that helps your teen feel relaxed and calm. Everyone is different, so encourage them to try several different activities until they find something that works for them. It might be painting, journaling, learning an instrument, doing yoga, running, or something else entirely. Spending even a few minutes each day doing something that relaxes them or helps them work through their emotions in a calming manner can go a long way towards reducing your teen’s stress levels, helping them to refocus and gain a more positive outlook.
5. Encourage them to connect with others.
Even if your child can’t go to school, it’s still crucial for them to have social interaction. They need to feel connected, supported, and to know that they aren’t alone. Getting these things from family is important as well, but they need to be able to relate to kids their age and keep up with their friends. Encourage them to find new ways to connect with their friends outside of school. This might involve driving them to the park to talk to their friends from the car window or loosening the reins a little on internet or screen time restrictions. You may even help them set up a virtual game night through a service like Jackbox; activities like this are a great way to give your child a fun, social outlet that helps them relax and enjoy themselves. The joy on your teen’s face and the improvement in their stress levels will make it worth loosening your restrictions a bit.
While your teen or pre-teen will face many challenges this year, they don’t have to face them alone—you’ll be there to offer support, advice, and encouragement every step of the way. The silver lining is that these coping skills will serve them well throughout their lives, helping them in their professional and personal lives by allowing them to face each new challenge with a sense of calm.