"Is it too much for them?"
Is What I'm Seeing Normal?
There are many times in life when individuals feel stressed out and overwhelmed. When you think about the variety of responsibilities, commitments, deadlines, etc that you need to keep up with and accomplish, it can be very hard to deal with. It is very normal for youth to feel stressed and overwhelmed. There are many different feelings and emotions that can influence how they develop and interact with others. Aside from dealing with everyday stressors that affect adults, youth have the added factor of dealing with changes in development, hormonal factors, educational pressures, body image, mood fluctuations, etc.
Should I Be Worried?
There is no one answer for this since it can be different from youth to youth. Sometimes it's easy for youth to fall into a state of feeling worried or anxious about school, peer or home issues; what differs is their capacity to deal with their behaviors or emotions. Many times youth’s behaviors are unpredictable or they may be dealing with emotional highs and lows; however, it's important to look at it from a different perspective. It's essential to keep in mind the stages of development that occur during young adulthood that explain the many changes happening within youth. Youth will deal with these changes in different ways. Many factors need to be taken into consideration and the youth’s situation should be fully assessed to determine if their thoughts and behaviors are considered to be typical. In many circumstances it's the process of youth just trying to "find themselves". It's very important for individuals to have a sense of identity and feel in tune and confident about who they are and how they fit in the grand scheme of things.
Just like adults, it is very common for youth to "act out" or become difficult to deal with when they're feeling stressed out or overwhelmed. There are some youth who can deal with these feelings very effectively and with little impact on their day-to-day living; however, everyone has different temperaments and coping abilities and have learned how to deal with situations differently.
Generally, males and females tend to deal with stress differently. Males may deal with stress by doing physical activities, getting impatient, becoming aggressive, or not talking about it. Females may deal with stress by either talking about it with their friends or keeping it inside, which could lead to harm turned inward.
There are many things to take into consideration and one of the main questions to think about is what are the underlying issues behind the stress? Is the youth getting into trouble with the law or with peers? Is their social group a good influence? Is this stress affecting their daily functioning? It's important to explore with the youth what may be causing their stress and possible ways to help them cope, so that they can lead positive and fulfilling lives.
How Can I Help?
Depending on the situation and the youth, there may not be one definite solution that will get rid of these feelings of stress. As a parent or caregiver, you probably feel at times that you and your youth live in two different worlds. However, it's important to remember that youth need your guidance and support in times of trouble and stress. There are different approaches you may find helpful when trying to reduce your youth’s feelings of being overwhelmed and/or stressed, which include:
1.) Try to have an open dialog with your youth to get to the root of their feelings
2.) Help them to be organized and to plan ahead to avoid feelings of anxiety
3.) Try to get into a routine so the household is calm and quiet at nighttime; getting enough sleep/rest is very important for growing youth
4.) Eating well balanced diets including breakfast, lunch and dinner
5.) Have fun time set aside! Enjoy a movie, fun outing, dinner, etc
6.) Separate work and family time. It’s important not to bring home work stress to your family and to include some down time for yourself; remember, you are role modeling how to deal with stress
7.) Keep a positive attitude. Youth pick up on your moods and emotions so try and stay positive!
8.) Avoid dealing with your own stress by having an alcoholic drink or cigarette, especially in front of your youth. Remember, your youth are learning from you and you do not want to model poor coping strategies.
Aside from these strategies, it’s also very helpful for youth to have someone they can vent their thoughts and feelings to. When feelings of stress or being overwhelmed take over, sometimes they may just need to express what’s going on in their lives to you or someone else they trust. Be aware, though, that suggesting that their problems are not “real” problems is not helpful; to a youth, their stress is just as real and overwhelming as yours can be. It is important, therefore, to acknowledge what your youth is feeling, no matter how trivial and minor the issue may seem to you. Many youth are looking for help and advice in addition to the opportunity to talk and vent, so in this case it is important to know about the variety of resources that are available in your community. These can include recreation centers, help lines, youth counselors, etc. The best way to know how to help your youth is to ask them.