So many teenagers worry about so many things: friendships, dating, school, the future. Those stressful and anxious feelings can affect what they eat, how often they move, and how much they sleep.
"Everything is a cause," says William Hansen, PhD. He is a staff psychologist in behavioral medicine and clinical psychology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. "They're trying to become themselves. They want their own style of hair, of dress, of swagger. The angst really comes from everywhere."
Parents are often caught in the crossfire. Still, there are things you can do to tame the beast of teen angst and anxiety. Help them learn to deal with it in healthy ways -- not by zoning out in video games, marathon text sessions, or a bag of chips. Life will be better for everyone. All of those unhealthy coping strategies can make moodiness worse and are temporary fixes that can cause unhealthy weight gain. Try these five strategies to help.
1. Take a Walk
When your teen is sad, mad, or just out of sorts, he may tend to go to his room to sulk. Or he may want to lose himself in TV or video games. It's much better if you can get him up and moving. Exercise curbs stress hormones and boosts hormones that make you happier.
"Have them put on earbuds and take a walk," says Hansen. "Get some fresh air and blow off some steam for 20 minutes. Find healthy ways to take care of yourself. Exercise is one of the greatest things."
Better yet, take a walk with him. It will give you some quality time together, even if you don't talk. Plus, it will show that you practice what you preach. It doesn't do any good if you tell your kid to get moving while you park yourself on the couch with a bag of chips. Kids learn by example -- mainly from you!
2. Go for a Drive
One of the best times to talk with your teen is in the car, says Hansen. You have a captive audience and no one has to make eye contact.
Ask about her day and what's going on in her life. Try not to disagree with her, says psychologist David Elkind, PhD, author of The Hurried Child. If she's upset that she doesn't have the coolest friends or clothes, for example, don't jump to say, "You don't need friends like that," or "You don't need to dress like other kids."
"Show your child that you understand how he or she feels. Say, 'I'm sure that must make you sad.' Or, 'I'm sure you must be disappointed,'" Elkind says.
3. Take a Break
When kids are young and cranky, you put them in timeout to cool off. When they're teens, they need to learn when it's time to give themselves a break. Some can de-stress by listening to music -- even if it's loud and doesn't sound all that calming to you. Others might relax with yoga or meditation. Or maybe there's a hobby like journaling, drawing, or playing an instrument that will get your teen's mind off life for a while.