If you're the parent of a teen, you may already have witnessed it: hair-trigger moods and drama worthy of a midday soap opera. The frustration and anxiety kids feel about life at this age bubbles up as teen angst.
It may not affect all kids, but it's not surprising when it does. After all, this stage is full of giant social, personal, and physical changes. And those stressful shifts can affect what teens eat, how they sleep, even how much energy they have to be active.
It’s easy for parents to feel helpless, especially when some of that angst is directed at you. But you can help your teen find healthy ways to deal with their feelings -- and preserve your own sanity at the same time.
Schedule Time With Your Teen
Many teenagers actually want guidance from their parents. They just may not want to ask for it.
"The best thing a parent can do is talk frequently and spend regularly scheduled time with their teens," says Ana Radovic, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
The scheduling part is important. School, sports, clubs, time with friends, and after-school jobs can keep their days jam-packed. You can easily fall off their calendar.
So set a time when the two of you walk the dog or run errands together on a weekend afternoon. You may not talk about anything that seems important, but the signal you send makes a difference.
"This will help their teen know they are available when they do need to talk to them about something important," Radovic says.
Set a Sleep Routine
It's easier to be a teen if you get enough rest. It's also easier to be the parent of a teen who gets enough sleep.
Most adolescents need at least 8 hours a night, but many fall far short. (Remember those jam-packed schedules?) When they’re tired, they’re moody and sluggish -- a recipe for extra angst. But with the right amount of rest, they’ll have more energy, make better choices around food and exercise, and just feel better overall.
Help your teen learn to make sleep a priority.That means going to bed and waking up at the same times almost every day, including on the weekend. Other tips may also help:
- Mark out quiet time before bed when you limit TV and other screen use, heavy-duty homework, exercising, and caffeine.
- Dim bedroom lights at night, but make sure your teen gets plenty of sunshine in the morning.
- If your teen likes naps, make sure he takes them earlier in the day and keeps them to 15 or 20 minutes.
- Cell phones and other screens should be turned off or put away at bedtime. The light from the screen and the constant dings of texts make it hard to fall asleep.