Dealing with Stress

Dealing with stress can be challenging for everyone. During this pandemic and unexpected time of change and uncertainty – many youths are experiencing more stress than normal.

The closure of schools and businesses due to COVID-19 has created upheaval for most families. If you have children between the ages of 10 and 14 you know that keeping them occupied and content can be challenging. By following this series, you will discover ideas and activities you can do with your rising teenager that are fun, increase resilience in youth, and build strong relationships in your family.

Dealing with stress can be challenging for everyone. During this pandemic and unexpected time of change and uncertainty – many youths are experiencing more stress than normal. This is certainly a good time for parents and caregivers to talk to their pre-teens/teens about what is going on in their lives and how to possibly handle the stress. During the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14, youth are given information about stress.

Below are some ideas you can use to get the conversation started.

  • Let them know that stress comes from things they often do not have control over – from their surroundings.
  • Everyone reacts differently to stress -they need to find a way that works for them.
  • Stress is cumulative – it can build up and lead to more problems if not dealt with.
  • Stress can be negative or positive. What would be some kinds of positive stress? You can use examples of planning a vacation or wedding or having a new brother or sister come into the family.

Some ways that youth can identify their own stress usually falls into four categories:

  • Physical symptoms (headaches, sweaty palms, stomach problems)
  • Emotions or feelings (frustration, angry, nervous or sadness)
  • Behavior changes (saying something mean or blowing up at someone)
  • Relationships (wanting to be alone or thinking no one likes you)

Let your youth know that stress can be handled in a problematic way or in a healthy way. Discuss some healthy ways that they can use to calm themselves. Here are some examples:

General Stress Management Strategies

  • Listen to music
  • Play video games
  • Exercise
  • Hobbies
  • Talk to others
  • Yoga
  • Reading

Short Term or “In the Moment” Stress Management Strategies

  • Take a few deep breathes
  • Walk away
  • Count to 10
  • Say “I can do this”
  • Talk to someone
  • Shoot hoops

Activity

Try this activity to give your youth an opportunity to practice healthy ways to handle their stress.

Charades: Read a stressful scenario from the list below (or you can come up with your own) and take turns acting out a healthy response. Have fun!

  • You flunk a test.
  • Your dad yells at you for leaving your bike out.
  • Your best friend ignores you.
  • Your sister messes up your room.
  • You’re afraid you won’t make the team.
  • You’re grounded for talking back.
  • You have a bad hair day.
  • You get benched in a basketball game.
  • You’ve got a lot of homework.
  • You forget to bring your homework home from school.
  • You forget your homework at home.
  • You rip your pants.
  • It’s the holidays and you don’t have any money for gifts.
  • You’re late for school.

Can you think of any more stressful events?

This article was originally published as part of the BeTWEEN Families series on Penn State Extension.

This activity has been adopted from Iowa State University’s Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth 10-14 (SFP 10-14) curriculum. SFP 10-14 is a multi-session family series that builds family cohesion and has been proven to reduce substance use in youth. Find out if your child’s school is hosting SFP 10-14. For more information, contact your local Penn State Extension office.

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