Excited for the holidays? Don’t assume that your teenager is just as excited as you. Some teens struggle with heightened feelings of anxiety and depression around the holidays, especially in a divorced household. Juggling the demands of family and the uncertainty of a less-structured day can put even the most calm-tempered teen on edge.
Here are seven strategies to help teens manage stress through the holiday season:
1. Spend time outside, even when it’s cold.
As the holidays approach, the days get shorter, and seasonal depression can set in. Encourage your teen to spend time outdoors, even if they seem less than enthused. Take a walk together, go skating, bring out the sleds, or invite them to spend some time enjoying another activity outside.
2. Pay attention.
Is your teen complaining of more headaches than usual? Have you noticed more moodiness than is typical for your teen? If you see increasing signs of stress, sit down and talk to your teen about the problems they’re potentially facing.
3. Let your teen know what to expect.
No one likes surprises, especially teenagers. Whether it’s family coming to visit or a change in your holiday plans, make sure everyone is in the loop about what’s happening and when, including your teenager.
4. Slow down a bit.
In this fast-paced, technology-driven world, teen stress, depression, and anxiety are on the rise. During the holidays, do you feel as if you are constantly on the go? There may be shopping to do, gifts to wrap, and holiday events to attend. If you notice your teen struggling as the holidays progress, try simplifying your schedule.
- Remove events that don’t bring anyone in the family joy. Just because it’s an annual tradition, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. You have choices.
- Plan at least two slow days to sit back, relax, and enjoy your family, if you can.
5. Watch eating habits.
The foods you eat every day can have a significant impact on your mood and your ability to handle stress. During the holidays, it’s tempting to ignore healthy eating habits. While there’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence over the holidays, make sure there are plenty of healthy foods on the menu, too. You can also take the time to recreate some of your favorite treats with a healthy twist.
6. Get some sleep.
Make sure your teenager gets plenty of rest each day, even if it means you have to turn down a few commitments. Try to keep the nightly routine consistent.
It’s often tempting as a parent to assume that you know what’s going on in your teen’s life — and sometimes we assume that the stresses they’re dealing with are minimal compared to the ones we face every day. Instead of assuming, take the time to listen to your teen. In many schools, projects, essays, and tests stack up just before a holiday break, which can be overwhelming. Some teens work extra hours at their job over the holidays, leaving less down time. Others may feel anxious about a specific upcoming event. It is possible that your teen is nervous about interacting with relatives. Take the time to talk with your teen and listen to what they have to say, then work out strategies together for dealing with potentially stressful events.
Not all stress is bad, as it can motivate us to work harder and be more efficient. However, prolonged stress can have a negative impact on our physical and emotional well being. If you notice your teen feeling overwhelmed with stress, sadness, or anxiety beyond the holiday season, it is important to seek the help of a professional.