Stress and teenagers

Side view of girl with hand on cheek

It’s very common for young people to feel stressed out from time to time. Stress is a normal part of life and can even be beneficial in some situations. However, if you’re worried that your child is under a lot of stress and it’s been going on for a while or is affecting their everyday life, there are things you can do to help them.

This article can help if you want to:

  • learn about the causes of stress and how stress affects teens
  • be able to spot the signs of stress in your child
  • help your child manage stress more effectively.

Young people and stress

Stress is a serious health concern for young Australians. In 2015, a research study by Mission Australia found that almost 40 per cent of 15- to 19-year-olds are very concerned about their ability to cope with stress.

Stress is a normal part of life for teenagers and can be caused by many different things. The more we learn about teens and stress, the better able we will be as parents to model the behaviours that can help our children learn to cope better with stress. Learning about why we get stressed and how to manage it more effectively is a great skill for life.

Dr Bill Kefalas explains the warning signs and effects of stress

Causes of teenage stress

Why are teens stressed? Common things that teenagers say cause them stress include:

  • homework and school (especially exams)
  • expectations and pressure to do well at school from parents and family
  • their social relationships with friends and boyfriends/girlfriends and the issue of sex
  • extracurricular commitments
  • life challenges, such as leaving school or getting into tertiary studies or employment
  • lack of time – having too much to do, feeling unprepared or overwhelmed
  • lack of sleep.

Signs of stress

If you know that your teen is going through a difficult time, you can be on the lookout for changes in behaviour or things that might signal that they’re experiencing excessive stress. For example, they

  • can’t sleep or are getting to bed later than usual
  • seem fatigued, disengaged, panicky or down
  • are saying they’re tired all the time, have headaches or stomach aches
  • are feeling irritable about themselves or others around them
  • are having trouble concentrating
  • are avoiding school
  • aren’t being themselves
  • aren’t eating very well
  • are staying in their room a lot on the weekends when they usually would be out with friends.

If you suspect your child is stressed, talk to them to try and determine if something is going on. If you can identify why they’re feeling stressed, it will be easier to help them address the cause and manage their stress appropriately.

Seek support if necessary

Stress on teenagers can be harmful to their health and wellbeing if it seems as though they have been enduring it for a long time. If your child has been showing signs of stress, try our suggested strategies to support them. However, if your child has been stressed for a long period of time, or if nothing seems to be helping, it’s a good idea to seek some outside help. Have a chat to your family doctor, or consider giving your child an opportunity to talk things over with a counsellor.

Find things to try to help your child with stress.