When someone goes through puberty, everything is in a constant state of change, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. Their responsibilities and surroundings are changing. They start jobs as homework increases and gets harder. Teens start to think for themselves and look at things in ways that are often different from their parents’ views. On top of all of that, their body is changing. The one thing that has remained consistent their entire life is now just as undependable as everything else around them.
These changes all happening at once can be frightening. When everything around you is in flux and changing, it can be hard to find something to hold on to. In a time when you’re somewhere between adult and child, figuring out where you land on any given day–or any given hour–can be hard to pinpoint. The amount and difficulty of your workload is constantly increasing and is under closer scrutiny, it can be hard to feel like you’re doing anything right. When everyone’s telling you who you are and what you should do, it’s hard to know who to listen to.
How can Parents Help Support Their Teens?
Be There, and be Steady
When everything is in flux, there’s something to be said for the simple, steady presence of someone who has gone through it before. Be there for your teen; speak the truth of their situation that they may not fully understand while they’re in it. Be patient and don’t jump down their throat about every little thing they get wrong or struggle with.
Part of the teenage years is figuring out how you’re a different person from your parents. Your teen will do things you don’t agree with, and you may never see those things the same way. There will be outbursts, arguments, and extreme fashion choices as they explore and discover the ways they agree and disagree with what they thought they knew. Don’t let this break your relationship. Demonstrate your love for them through your actions; that it’s not conditional, even if you disagree with their choices.
This may seem obvious, but when everything around you is in flux and everything you do or say feels judged by others, it’s not. Continue to show your teen you love and support them, whether or not you support those they’re letting influence them or their actions. You’re their parent; not their friend. However, knowing their parent cares about and loves them will help that relationship, even when it’s strained.
Transitioning from child to adult comes with a lot of hidden stressors and traps that your teen may suddenly realize they have no idea how to handle. All stressors come in one of three types: physical, chemical, and mental. Physical stress comes from things like strained muscles, broken bones, and exercising wrong. Mental stress comes from a lot of work or deadlines or struggling to fit in at school or with a significant other. Chemical stress is caused by situations like imbalanced hormones or an overtaxed immune system.
Stress can come from every part of life and impacts every organ and system in your body. When you’re going through puberty, you’re dealing with each of these stressors. That’s a lot for the body to handle. Sometimes too much. When this happens, it can come out in a number of ways. Sometimes it comes out in explosions of frustration or anger, other times your teen may have an increase in fatigue, tendencies to withdraw from those around them, or tendencies to search out an escape from whatever stress they can manage.
Let Them Practice
If you want to do anything in the long term, practice is necessary. Why should adulthood be any different? Allow your teen to fail in their responsibilities and make mistakes. Allow your teen their victories and successes–large and small. Don’t diminish either.
When you’re under so much stress, another let-down–especially one of your own making–can often be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It can feel like the end of the world and having someone dismiss it as no big deal will only add more mental stress to the overflowing pot.
If your teen is excited because they managed to finish all their homework before midnight, and that accomplishment is diminished, it’ll only add to the mental stress to be perfect. That’s not something anyone needs–especially a teen.
Help foster a good relationship between your teen and their adulthood by helping them look at their changing surroundings and body as a blessing rather than a curse. This can be hard, especially for teens that aren’t comfortable in their own skin. New circumstances and being stretched out of your comfort zone isn’t ever going to be comfortable.
That goes for you, as a parent, too. This is a hard time of life–not only for the teens going through it, but for those around them walking through it with them. Take a deep breath, allow it to be messy, and remember–you’re not the first ones to go through this. This is hard on everybody–have as much patience with yourself as with them.
Set Your Teen up for Success
It’s easy to understand that teens have a lot of chemical stress going on in their lives. These stresses come from the way processes and organs in the body react to the food they eat, the environment around them, and other organs and processes.
If your teen is encountering a lot of toxins, the chemical stress they’re dealing with goes up. Hidden toxins can be found in things like the air or water around them, household cleaners, hair products, beauty products, lotions, and hidden sources of plastic.
Allergens cause inflammation in your body. Your body responds to allergens as though they were toxins; it attacks them. Eating allergens regularly can cause your immune system to get fatigued. Get your teen’s allergies tested and cut those foods from their diet. While you wait for the results of the allergy test, you can start out by cutting things like dairy, sugar, GMOs, dyes, the dirty dozen, and these six naturally inflammatory foods.
Hormone imbalances will also cause chemical stress. Hormonal changes are a natural part of puberty and can very easily become imbalanced. Get your teen’s hormones tested, all of them and completely. Discuss how to bring them back into homeostasis with a doctor that knows how to read the results, how hormones impact their bodies and minds.
Getting your teen’s neurotransmitters tested and functioning properly is another way to ease chemical stresses.
Get your teen adjusted. It doesn’t take a lot to shift something in the body out of structural alignment. When something is out of structural alignment, the body doesn’t function properly as easily.
Overexercising, or exercising the wrong way, also causes physical stress. Encourage your teen daughter to exercise in accordance with where she is in her cycle. Encourage your teen to not overexert themself; that sometimes slow and steady is better than high impact. Their body has enough that is throwing it into chaos; work with it, not against it.
How is Your Teen Sleeping?
Make sure your teen is getting enough sleep. This one isn’t easy. Neurology Live puts it this way:
The stereotypical teenage late nights and lazy morning are often attributed to bad habits or a youthful quest to be cool. Particularly lately, with the emergence of always-available social media, teenagers stay up into early morning hours maintaining their online presence. Many parents think that these ‘late night’ and ‘sleeping in’ habits are simply habits.
In fact, research shows that teenage and adolescent sleep patterns are hormonally influenced, and not behavioral quirks, rebellious statements or decided attempts to fit in socially. In the teenage years, the hormonal response to the 24-hour daily light/dark exposure that influences circadian rhythm is altered, making adolescents physiologically yearn to stay awake later at night and to remain asleep later in the day.
It’s natural for a teen’s sleep schedule to alter, going back to a chemical relationship in the body. Getting enough sleep is important, though, and teens need more sleep than adults or children, as their bodies and minds are growing more. Harvard Health also says this about a person’s circadian rhythm:
An irregular circadian rhythm can have a negative effect on a person’s ability to sleep and function properly, and can result in a number of health problems, including mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.
Even if getting your teen on a normal sleep cycle is hard, it’s worth it. We at the Wellness Way are aware this is a hard-fought battle, which is why we share our eight tips for getting better sleep here.
Set aside time to talk with your teen about areas they’re struggling and hard questions they’re wrestling with. Let them talk openly; don’t start scolding the moment they bring up something you disagree with. Keep the lines of communication open. Having an adult with the benefit of hindsight will be invaluable to your teen, but if they think you’re judging them before hearing them out, they’ll stop trying.
Encourage your teen to keep a gratitude journal, as having a daily gratitude practice has been shown to improve health.
This is harder than the others and will only be helped by keeping the above in a good place. Addressing your teen’s physical and chemical situations and keeping them optimal will help with addressing the mental and social stressors from a better, more grounded space. Your teen’s mind and brain are growing and maturing just as much as their bodies. They’ll need patience and help, even if they think they have it all figured out.
Talk to your teen about good and bad influences and what makes someone which one. Have the hard discussion with them about which of their friends shouldn’t be able to talk into their lives as much as others. Help them see that teens are masters of peer pressure, and that life continues after middle and high school, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
As hard as it is, this is another area you have to let your teen practice being an adult. They’ll have successes and failures. Walk through these with them and know that, even if you saw them coming, your teen may not have. Even if these struggles seem small to you, they’re big and real to your teen.
To get your teen’s allergies, hormones and neurotransmitters tested, to learn more about other toxins your teen’s body may be fighting, or to get adjusted, contact a Wellness Way clinic today!