Teenage people have a lot on their plates during the winter holiday season. School is in full swing, exams are looming, and there are extra activities and work obligations. Teens also live with one foot in childhood and the other in adulthood—they may still feel an attachment to youthful holiday magic while realizing the stress it can cause for their family’s financial and emotional health. Also, big family reunions can add an element of drama. That’s a lot to schedule, and an even bigger challenge to manage in a healthy, life-giving way.
Teens often show their stress with the onset of headaches or stomachaches; trouble sleeping; unusual moodiness, including tears for seemingly minor reasons; and withdrawal from friends, family, or school. As a caring adult in a teen’s life, when you see stress taking a toll, try to limit or adjust your teen’s commitments and create opportunities to relax and rediscover joy. Here are some things to try:
- Emphasize routines and structure. Make structured holiday plans and communicate them to your young person. Have your teen help you bake, wrap presents, participate in family outings, or complete chores.
- Prioritize healthy food and movement. Plan at least one healthy meal for the family every day. Be sure your teen stays hydrated—sometimes bad moods or fatigue are simply caused by “wilting.” Invite your young person out for a short walk. Fresh air engenders conversation and a fresh perspective.
- Schedule downtime. Allow enough time for your young person to decompress between holiday activities and obligations with a long shower, a good book, or their favorite Netflix series. Everyone needs time to recharge.
- Get creative. Help your teen discover a creative outlet, whether it’s adult coloring books, building a bird house, cake decorating, or henna art. When humans create, they are naturally calmed and achieve a sense of mastery.
- Check your attitude. Youth can subconsciously respond to the stress levels around them. Therefore, it is important that we be aware of and manage our own stress during the holiday season.
Courtney Pohlman, MA, LMFT, CSOTP, T4C is a therapist with Samaritan with special interest and expertise in marriage and family dynamics. She serves clients in New London and Menasha.