How to deal with teens under stress according to their stress responses?
From the earliest age, kids begin to acquire certain behavioural styles. However, even teens don’t have yet fully developed personalities. Therefore, teens react unpredictably under stress. They have some dominant behaviour style in a stress situation, but that style continues to develop and change. For example, in the same stressful situation, the stress response of some teens is fighting while the stress response of other teens is running.
Since stress responses develop into habits in teenage age, helping teenagers to respond adequately in certain stressful situations is very important. Because the teenagers’ brain becomes again extremely flexible, we have the second chance to change their stress behaviour style. The first great chance we had in the first 3 years of a child’s life. For that purpose, the role of parents is huge. Parents’ responses and reactions to the child’s behaviour can strengthen or weaken behaviour patterns. However, before any attempt to change teenage stress behaviour, understanding it is necessary.
Styles of teenage stress behaviour
According to stress responses: fight, flight or freeze, there are 3 styles of stress behaviour.
Teenage stress behaviour with a tendency to the fight
These teens have a tendency to fight in stressful situations. They are often unpredictable. They easily get angry when someone provoked them and start a quarrel quickly by showing disrespect for others. Often make a real drama scene from nothing. They can be selfish. A competitive spirit is their one more feature, but they have high expectations of themselves and others.
Feelings behind their personality:
- Ambitiousness: They always try to get what they want by all means. If someone tries to say no to them, they can go crazy. That’s why others often yield them. Compliments and rewards are the meaning of their lives. A victory and power give them only short-term pleasure. Therefore, they always want something bigger, better and more.
- Arrogance: They like perfection and go crazy when something isn’t like they want. They are easily insulted and they are angry when someone touches something theirs. They always try to be the first in everything and go insane when they aren’t.
- Stubbornness and selfishness: They persist until they get what they want. They like to get all the attention.
- Disobedience and not co-operation: They don’t like rules and laws. If they don’t want to do something, they require to don’t do that. They just don’t cooperate with others when they don’t care.
- Making a real drama about everything: A crumb of misunderstanding is enough to provoke conflicts in them. That’s why their lives look like a real drama.
Behaviour with a tendency to the flight in teens under stress
These teenagers are overly sensitive, but they avoid conflict or discussion. They often make as everything is fine by hiding behind shyness or jocularity.
Feelings behind their personality:
- Negative attitude: Often feels like nothing is going right in their lives. They believe that they deserve better, but they don’t try to change anything. Panic, fear, anger are constantly changing in them.
- Excessive sensitivity: The smallest thing can break these teenagers. They often dread that something will go wrong, but they can’t evaluate their and others feelings.
- Avoiding and refusing discussion: They avoid communication about their problems and to seek someone else’s help. For example, when parents start asking them questions, they retreat into their room.
Teenage stress behaviour with a tendency to the freeze
Lethargic and helpless are features of stress behaviour with a tendency to the freeze. Teenagers with this stress behaviour style seem like too much careful by fulfilling other’s desires, but they just want to be accepted.
Feelings behind their behaviour:
- Anxiety and loneliness: They feel lonely and seeking help to solve their problems is difficult for them. They are horrified by the possibility of making a mistake. Therefore, to do nothing is easier for them.
- Excessive compliance: They do what others say without talking. Listening to others is easier for them than to confront others.
- Letargillity and constant fatigue: In their opinion, not to try is better than to try and to experience defeat. Because of this fear of defeat, they often act indifferently. Doing what they can is easier for them than trying something new.
- Glumness: They can not express their feelings and desires. They don’t submit any kind of conflict but don’t try to solve problems. Sometimes they are nervous and worry about nothing for a few days.
Tips how to deal with teenage under stress according to their stress behaviour styles
First of all, watch a teen to determine his/her unique stress behaviour styles. After determining the child’s stress behaviour style, consider your actions. By understanding what causes panic, fear, or rage, you will be able to regulate your reaction to the child’s behaviour.
Tips for dealing with teenage stress behaviour with a tendency to fight:
- Establish clear rules and respect them consistently.
- Encourage responsibility in the child.
- Help your child to learn how to overcome disappointment by not giving always to be as he/she wants.
- Encourage teen to think about the consequences of a certain action in order to the child’s understanding of how his/her behaviour affects others.
- Aggressiveness is an example of overreaction under the influence of irreconcilable feelings. Respond to such behaviour calmly and resolutely, trying to uncover an unsatisfied expectation.
- Review the goals of the child and help him/her to calm excessive feelings about his/her abilities, appearance, achievement and intentions. Excessive expectations are the trigger of anger because there is always a danger that the child will be disappointed and frustrated when perfection isn’t achieved.
- Praise the child’s efforts and desire to participate, not just the achievement.
- Pay attention to some of the child’s actions, not just to the ultimate goals.
- Respond positively to realistic and reasonable requests, but don’t be afraid to say no when that is needed. In that way, the child learns what is reasonable and what isn’t.
- Encourage the child to notice and celebrate others’ achievements.
- Give the child an opportunity to do something for you and show him/her how that means to you and that you are grateful to him/her. This will teach the child the benefits of cooperating with others.
- Avoid bribing or compulsion to obedience.
- Don’t be sarcastic towards the child because that only provokes further disobedience.
- Try that the child’s dramatic scenes not disturbed you.
- Help the child to help him/herself by learning to react intelligently and reasonably.
- When the child’s anger calm down, try to explain him/her how you feel after one such episode, but without criticizing.
Tips for dealing with teenage stress behaviour with a tendency to flight:
- On the child’s complains that nothing is good, remind him/her on the situations when everything went well.
- Give the child opportunities to improve overcoming the fear of a bad outcome by encouraging him/her to be independent. Don’t do everything instead of him/her.
- Help the child to overcome bad outcomes. Whenever he/she decides to do something, no matter how that is important, greet his/her efforts.
- Explain to the child that he/she is too much sensitive under stress and suggest more appropriate stress responses.
- Demonstrate a variety of reactions so that the child realizes that different causes shouldn’t cause the same level of anxiety.
- Encourage the teen to talk about his/her feelings in order to understand his/her emotions better.
- Respect the child’s space and privacy, but involve him/her more closely in interacting with others.
- Limit the time for lonely activities, such as playing games. Lonely activities make the child even more isolated and increase his/her feeling of social uncomfortable.
- Make sure that you don’t criticize the others in the conversation in order that the child doesn’t feel a fear that he/she will pass on the same way in a conversation with you.
Tips for dealing with teenage stress behaviour with a tendency to freeze:
- Try to determine what the child really feels by encouraging him/her to talk about that.
- No matter how much you are annoyed by the child’s behaviour, try to hide that. On contrary, you will boost his/her anxiety and fear.
- Talk with the teen about some of your mistakes in order to he/she realizes that making mistakes is human.
- Encourage the child to participate in a variety of activities in order to increase his/her self-confidence.
- Try to not react to teenage stress behaviour by teasing and criticizing.
- Encourage the child to talk about his/her needs by asking questions precisely and calmly: “Are you okay? Do you feel unhappy? Can I help you? Explain to me what’s wrong, I care to understand”.
- Whenever the teen manifests some own need, try to respond to it according to opportunities.
- Help the child to understand that others can not read his/her thoughts.
- Organize events in which the child will be at the centre of attention, for example, a family lunch.
- Encourage the teen to take care of him/herself and solves his/her problems.
- Try not to focus on the child’s shyness and not pay too much attention to it.
- Try to help the teen to understand that his/her behaviour excludes him/her from the world.
- Encourage the teen to enjoy activities which provide good fun and which will improve his/her mood.
- Divide the teenage goals into lesser-minded steps that can be overcome and re-motivated the child before each new stage.
- Give the teen regular praise and encouragement.
Tips for the end
Empathy, calmness, reasonableness, and patience are necessary for dealing with teenage stress. But, the most important thing in order to teach a teen how to deal with stress is to be a good model for him/her. Think about how you react in a stressful situation. Do you want your teen reacts the same? Improve your stress management if you want your teen to improve her/his stress responses. For that purpose, we recommend you to take a stress test to discover are you a parent under stress and to read our tips on how to overcome stress.
To write this article, I used an excellent book that contains a lot of facts and advice about the development and upbringing of teenagers:
- Downshire J. Grew N. (2015). Teenagers Translated: How to Raise Happy Teens. Random House UK