High school can be an exciting time filled with possibility and opportunity for your teenager. But it can also come with its fare share of problems.
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Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress
The chance to delve into new subjects can be counterbalanced by the pressure to manage a school schedule with many courses, projects and deadlines. There are new social situations and relationships to manage, peer pressure to deal with and social media dilemmas. There are extra-curricular activities and volunteer obligations that can demand an increasing chunk of your teen’s time. Meanwhile, getting top grades becomes increasingly important when guidance counsellors start talking to your teen about university applications and the competitive nature of being accepted to a program of your teen’s choice. There are also typical hormonal changes and physical developments that can be confusing at times.
It’s no wonder more teenagers than ever before report having had a major depressive episode, or MDE. This is defined as a stint of at least two weeks in which a teen experiences low mood and energy, reduced self esteem, loss of interest in activities, difficulty sleeping with sleeping problems concentrating. In fact, a recent study of young adults published Pediatrics found that the percentage of adolescents who had an MDE jumped from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 11.5 percent in 2014. That’s an increase of 37 percent in just a few years.
This data has left experts and parents concerned as there hasn’t been an equal increase in mental health interventions for adolescents. Many are under-treated or not treated at all for these symptoms.
So how can you help your teen face problems they are sure to encounter in high school? Here are a few strategies you can use to guide your teen along a positive path.
1. Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress
Why not go for a walk or hike with your teen? Enjoy a bike ride together or hit the gym regularly. This will enable you to both increase your endorphins while spending time doing something together. Make sure you work it into your schedule and go at a time that’s doesn’t interfere with sleep or upcoming deadlines.
2. Make sure your teen takes breaks to focus on friendships and activities they enjoy
This strategy has also been shown to reduce stress, and it’s critical for their overall health and wellbeing. Whether they like hanging out with friends, seeing a movie, playing hockey or taking an art class, hobbies and friendships offer a much needed break from the pressures of academics.
3. Enforce good study habits
Help your teen stay on top of deadlines and tests with an agenda and a regular schedule for completing homework. Show them how to organize and prioritize deadlines, perhaps by showing them your own personal strategies. Make sure homework is done in a peaceful environment clear of distraction. This might mean they study in their room without their smartphone next to them. Social media can be a major distraction and can prevent them from focussing on their work. Suggest your teen to speak with you, their teacher or guidance counsellor if they are having difficulty managing.
4. Encourage your teen to talk to you if they are feeling stressed or have other challenges at school, whether it is social or otherwise
You don’t have to offer advice or lecture them. Sometimes, they just want someone who will listen and not offer judgement. Ask your teen how they felt in that situation, what they wish they would have done instead and how they hope to respond in future if the same situation arises. In this way, you’re helping them work through problems in a way that is comfortable, constructive and feels safe to your teen.
5. The importance of good nutrition and proper sleep patters cannot be underestimated
Make sure your teen is eating healthy, nutritious foods at regular intervals so they have energy to concentrate and think. Breakfast is an important meal that gets their day off to a decent start. Encourage them not to skip meals. Do pack snacks and water in their backpack in case they get hungry during the day. Enforce a proper bedtime, especially on school nights, so they feel refreshed at the start of each day. A lack of sleep can result in miserable mood and an inability to think clearly. Consider a tech-free bedroom to ensure your teen doesn’t end up on social media until the wee hours.