In the second part of our series on stress (check out part one here), we’ll focus on how we, as parents, can help control stress in our own lives as well as in the lives of our children. Of course, we want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem!
As parents, we play the leadership role in nurturing our children to be healthy, self -confident, and well-prepared future adults. That includes fostering healthy stress levels for all parties. With growing evidence that high adult stress is being passed on to our children, we’ve got a lot of work to do on ourselves!
Much can be gained by understanding our children’s stressors and how we may be contributing to the situation. Is our behavior or the way we are communicating with them stressing them out even more? To that end, here are some powerful parenting strategies to help reduce their pressure:
- Examine our influence. Are we tuned in to our children’s stress and whether we’re adding fuel to the fire? Do our children see us as part of the solution or part of the problem? Do we need some constructive change in our parenting?
- Value the child more than their performance. Several teen stressors can be attributed to overzealous, performance-focused parents with control issues. Is doing their best good enough? It should be. Our children need to know they are loved unconditionally for who they are, not what they do or how well they do.
- Avoid overcommitment. During the teen years, the desire for credentials can cause chronic overscheduling at the expense of sleep, exercise, and downtime. Do our children have the capacity to apply their stress reducers?
- Alleviate decision-making pressure. Reassure them that their future will not depend on getting into a specific college or choosing a specific career. We need to let them live their dream without forcing the issue.
At the same time, we parents have our own share of stress to manage! Launching a teen into adulthood is a defining moment. It’s fraught with mixed emotions, important decisions, and, often relationship strains as they exert their independence. We marvel at how it happened so fast, inevitably with some regrets.
In our book, Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, we offer strategies to help parents cover the bases, build an enduring relationship, and position our teens (and ourselves!) for a successful transition. Here are some stress-busting tips we share:
- Remember, you are not responsible for their life. You’ve offered love, security, wisdom, and guidance, but you’re not in the driver’s seat forever. You’ve moved over to the passenger seat and soon will be in the back seat. They’ll make mistakes just like you did, and that’s okay! Relax a little, release your control grip, and extend yourself some grace!
- Focus on building relationship capital. This is a critical time to invest in your relationship, even if you don’t see immediate payoffs. The keys are showing unconditional love, mutual trust, and understanding, and affirming their worth and potential. Do more “sharing with” than “talking to.” And, have fun!
- Recruit positive third party voices. Parenting really is a team sport. Actively seek out great adult role models who will reinforce your messages and develop relationships with your children. It’s a total win-win!
- Remember, your identity reaches beyond your role as a parent. For many parents (especially empty nesters), the launch of a child unleashes an epic identity crisis, causing them to hold on for dear life. This is a self-confidence destroyer for our children. Yes, life will change, but it can still be great!
Sure, the teen years offer unusual challenges and stress. But, handled constructively, they will position your teen to soar and your relationship to grow in new and wonderful ways. There’s nothing like it in the world.
Parents, how do you rate when it comes to your own personal stress level? How’s your relationship with your teen during this especially high-pressure season for them? Do you have any tips to share with other parents? We’d love to hear from you!
About the Author
Dennis Trittin is the author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. Through his books, blog, and nationwide speaking engagements, Dennis prepares students for life success and equips parents and educators in their vital training role. You can find him here on Facebook.