To Manage Stress, Set Priorities
Teach your teen how to cut down on activities; that can also help relieve some pressure if they're stressed out.
"When parents say, 'That's too much, you have to choose,' you're helping kids learn how to prioritize, which is a very important skill they're going to need for the rest of their lives," says Roni Cohen-Sandler, PhD, author of Stressed-Out Girls.
Sit down with your teen and help her decide which activities are most important to her -- which ones she likes the best. Then, work together to decide which ones to continue and which ones to stop.
If your teen plays sports, limit them to one per season. Do the same with other commitments. Try to have at least one day where she comes home without any scheduled activities. On those days, encourage your teen to find healthy, unstructured ways to relax. Explain to her that listening to soothing music or taking a stroll in nature would be good ways to chill.
Cutting back on commitments can also help make sure your teen gets at least 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep a night. Not enough sleep can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Plus, when they don't get enough sleep, they’re also more likely to eat unhealthy foods and not want to move.
Be a Role Model
If you talk the talk of making time to recharge, you also need to walk the walk.
"If you're a type A personality who is a workaholic who never takes time off, your kids are going to do that, too," says child and adolescent psychiatrist Shamina Henkel, MD, director of psychiatric services for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Children learn by example. Try to dial back on your commitments, when possible. If you don't ease off your over-scheduled life, your child won't understand why they should. If they see you reach for junk food or plop down in front of the TV in order to relax and recharge, they'll learn to copy those unhealthy behaviors.
Instead, when you're stressed, show that you can deal with it in healthy ways: Ride your bike, meditate, listen to relaxing music. Then explain to your teen what you're doing and why you’re doing it. You can even invite them to join you.
"Eat right, exercise, take time off," says Henkel. "Teach them, 'This is good for me, it feels good for me, it helps keep my stress level down.'"
That, in turn, can make it easier to have a clear mind and the energy to be mindful of the choices you make when it comes to fueling your body right with healthy foods.
Encourage Downtime to Avoid Burnout
To keep stress at bay, also offer kids a break. Parents are often in a frenzy, rushing from one thing to the next, says Cohen-Sandler. But don't get on teens as soon as they get home from school to "be productive" or start on school work. This can add unnecessary stress.
"Give them relaxation time and model that skill yourself," she says.
Carve out time during your day to unwind, just like you’d make time for meals. You might suggest that your teen walk the dog or dance to some music before starting on homework, for example. Moving around helps get their brains ready to study as well as lowers stress.