Teens can develop healthy coping strategies to help them deal with stress and other life issues.

Coping Strategies for Teens

by Janet Mulroney Clark

Teenagers experience rapid internal and external changes, both of which can be stressful. They undergo puberty, move from middle school to high school, become more independent and are faced with important decisions about their futures. Teens that have the skills and support to deal with the many challenges of adolescence are better able to cope than those who don't.

Distraction and Avoidance

While distraction and avoidance aren't good long-term solutions to problems, they are useful tools for the short-term. Immediately after teens encounter a troubling situation might not be the best time to problem-solve. Switching their attention away from the painful, confusing issues of teenage life enables teens to find the emotional equilibrium to go back and face the situation more calmly and optimistically. Watching a funny movie or television show, listening to music or playing with the family pet can provide a much-needed distraction.

Identify the Problem

Distraction and avoidance eventually need to give way to problem-solving. Teens experience stress about school work, friends, pressure to experiment with drugs and alcohol, romance -- or the lack of it -- and their own confusing internal landscape. Sometimes it's obvious what the problem is, but sometimes teens truly don't know what's bothering them. Talking with an empathetic listener who does not judge them can help teens identify the problem. Journaling is also helpful for many teens.

Solve the Problem

Sometimes the problem can be solved by learning new skills. Teens who are struggling with their school work can learn better studying skills or receive extra help in the area of need. If teens are having problems making friends, they can learn new social skills. Role-playing can help boost social skills. It also helps to spend time in a group of people with common interests, such as music, photography or sports. Building competencies and learning various skills helps teens feel better about themselves.

Deal with Emotions

It helps if teens can understand their emotions and know they are normal. Love, fear, anger, sadness, jealousy and all the other emotions can help teens understand what is important to them, so if they can learn to express their emotions honestly in healthy ways, it's to their benefit. Talking with a trusted family member or friend, journaling, writing poetry or song lyrics and creating other works of art are healthy ways to release emotion.

Get Physical

Physical activity relieves stress and helps clear the mind. Teens who participate in sports benefit from the exercise. If they're not into sports, they can still hike, jog, bicycle or dance. Deep breathing, yoga and Pilates help people relax by loosening tight muscles and increasing air flow. Teens can learn to take a deep breath or two several times a day to increase their sense of well-being.

Time to Get Help

Sometimes problems loom too large. Teens who are being bullied or abused or who are experiencing moderate to deep depression need additional help to prevent them from turning to substance abuse, violence or suicide. Parents need to learn the signs that a teen is considering suicide and get help from a qualified mental health professional immediately if they see their children displaying these signs. Signs include loss of interest in regular activities, change in eating habits, drug and alcohol abuse, preoccupation with death and talk of committing suicide, according to Ohio State University. With proper intervention, teens can get back on the right track.

About the Author

Janet Clark has written professionally since 2001. She writes about education, careers, culture, parenting, gardening and social justice issues. Clark graduated from Buena Vista University with a degree in education. She has written two novels, "Blind Faith" and "Under the Influence." Clark has received several awards from the Iowa Press Women for her work.

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