Prioritizing Self-Care and Stress Relief for Kids and Teens

Today’s kids and teens deal with a considerable amount of stress, especially in comparison to previous generations. There are a lot of factors that raise stress levels and anxiety in adolescents.

There’s pressure to perform well in school, homework that eats up time outside of class, worries about fitting in with classmates, and even confronting particularly difficult obstacles, such as bullying and peer pressure. And don’t forget about the pressure that social media spurs in teens.

While you can’t magically wipe out all of the stress triggers in your child’s life, you can help them work through it in a healthy manner. Here are a few ways you can help guide your child through their time in school.

1. Make time for your child to communicate their stress with a trusted figure, such as a counselor or therapist.

One of the most valuable gifts you can give your child is open, judgment-free communication. Not only does this include speaking with you about their thoughts or struggles, but also offering the help of another trusted figure.

Sometimes kids and teens have a lot on their minds, and despite a wonderful relationship with their parents, they may not feel comfortable sharing it with such a close family member. By offering your child visits with a counselor or therapist, they can express how they feel in privacy, which in turn will also help your relationship with them grow.

2. Give your child outlets to explore their creativity through new hobbies or relaxing activities.

Encouraging creativity, hobbies, play, and relaxation are all very important factors in relieving stress and practicing self-care. Some activities that are especially great for addressing stress are journaling, painting, coloring, puzzles, and reading. Physical activity can also be therapeutic. Ask your child if there are any extracurricular activities or after-school groups they are interested in joining.

3. Stick to regular routines and rituals at home to create a sense of security and stability.

Humans are creatures of habit, and this is even more apparent in adolescents. A constantly fluctuating schedule is not only chaotic, but it prevents kids and teens from really being able to find peace in their own daily lives. Help them develop more structure by creating regular (but flexible) routines for their mornings, bedtimes, showering and oral hygiene, skincare, after school tasks, etc.

4. Be aware of physical signs of stress that are more subtle, like skin picking or teeth grinding.

Kids of all ages can be surprisingly good at hiding how they’re really feeling. They might say school’s going great or they have a great time with friends and that nothing is bothering them, but physical actions might paint a different story. Some subtle ways kids might show physical signs of stress are nail-biting, skin picking, fidgeting, and teeth grinding, which is also known as bruxism.

Grinding and jaw clenching can permanently harm adult teeth, so if your child is experiencing this issue, speak with a pediatric dentist. They can advise whether your teen would benefit from a simple oral appliance to protect their teeth.

5. Teach your child effective centering techniques, such as naming emotions and emotional validation.

Ignoring emotions is a surefire way of growing them into bigger problems. Teach your kids that emotions are normal and healthy, even the bad ones, like feeling upset, stressed, or sad. When your child feels overwhelmed with emotions, help them emotionally center themselves by naming their emotions out loud. This validates how they feel and actually relieves the pressure the emotion causes. Here is a great introduction to the power of naming emotions.

6. Don’t skip important social events or put playdates and family gatherings on the backburner.

Even the most introverted child or teen needs time to socialize and be around family and friends. Finding a balance between school and household obligations and having fun at social events is important in combating stress. Remember, school and homework aren’t necessarily the most important things in your child’s life. Focusing too much on school performance often winds up having the opposite effect, causing stress and often a dip in grades.

Make sure your child is able to have fun with friends and family. Schedule playdates or, for teens, make sure you’re allowing them to kick their shoes off, relax, and just be a teenager.

7. Make sure you make time to acknowledge and decompress your own stress levels and emotions.

Remind yourself that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Going for long periods of time without addressing and decompressing from your own stress makes it difficult or even impossible to help your own family. Make time for self-care as often as you need it. Reach out to a therapist if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Ask for help from your partner or loved ones if you find yourself struggling. Treat yourself with the same grace and understanding as you treat your kids.

Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry will support your child’s oral health.

Knowing your child’s smile is in safe hands is a huge stress relief for parents. Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry’s experienced and gentle pediatric dentists provide dedicated dental care for kids and teens of all ages, from infancy until their 18th birthday.

If your child or teen is due for a check-up, or if you believe they may be experiencing bruxism, schedule an appointment by calling our Salem, OR, office or requesting a visit online.