Stress is the "wear and tear" our bodies go through as we adjust to our constantly changing environment. Anything that causes change in our lives causes stress.
The adolescent years are among the most stressful times in a person's life. Adolescence is the time of life when children change into adults. They are going through puberty, meeting the changing expectations of others, and coping with feelings that may be new to them.
Adolescence is, by definition, an "in-between" stage. They have more responsibility and freedom than they did as children, but less than they will as adults. Their thoughts, behavior, and social relations are all changing radically. The rate of change varies from person to person.
Among the many reasons why an adolescent feels stress are: problems with peersfamily issues or problems with parentsschool-related problems or pressuresdeath of a loved onemove to a new homeinjuries or severe illnesschild abuse, or sexual abuse family or community violencenatural disaster
Reactions to stress vary with the adolescent's ability to cope, how long the stress continues, and the intensity of the stress. Some adolescents withdraw from others, some lash out at others, and some actively seek the comfort of others.
Signs of stress in an adolescent may include: withdrawalantisocial behavior, such as stealing, aggression, and acting outrebellion in the home, such as refusal to do choresphysical complaints, such as headache and stomach acheuse of drugs or alcoholmissed school or poor school performancechanges in eating and sleeping habitsloss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyeddifficulty concentratinglyingthoughts of death or suicide
Helping adolescents realize that they are important members of society can ease a great deal of their stress. They need help to find out where they belong.
Ways that adults can help adolescents cope with stress include: encouraging them to talk about what they are going through, without being judgmentalavoiding remarks that minimize problems, like "you'll get over it"offering reassurance, encouragement, and supportcontinuing to provide structure, stability, and predictabilityencouraging participation in activities they normally enjoytrying to build a relationship so they feel comfortable asking for help when they need itmodeling effective coping skills, by talking about how to deal with problems and cope with difficult situationsteaching them safe ways to blow off steam and relax, including relaxation techniques making sure they have access to responsible mentors such as clergy, counselors, and coaches or teachers
Helping adolescents cope with stress is an important task. It helps to prepare them to face the challenges that lie ahead as they move into the adult world. Signs of stress in adolescents should be taken seriously. Stress can lead to depression and a greater risk for drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and suicide.
Parents should seek the help of an appropriately credentialed professional for an adolescent if the stress is making normal, everyday life impossible, or if there are signs of depression or thoughts of suicide.
Principles and Practice of Psychiatric Nursing, Stuart and Sundeen, 1991.
National Institute of Mental Health, "Helping Children Cope With Stress" [hyperLink url="http://www.nncc.org/Guidance/cope.stress.html" linkTitle="www.nncc.org/Guidance/cope.stress.html"]www.nncc.org/Guidance/cope.stress.html[/hyperLink]
National Institute of Mental Health, "Recognizing Stress in Children" [hyperLink url="http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs//humandev/disas1.htm" linkTitle="www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs//humandev/disas1.htm"]www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs//humandev/disas1.htm[/hyperLink]