In a bustling city state with so many demands to meet, even adults struggle with stress, let alone our teenagers who are still finding their own footing in this world. As parents and caregivers, you play an essential role in providing a nurturing and supportive family environment  for your child. How do you know if your child is under too much stress?

Noticing the Signs

Physical Signs

They may complain of frequent aches and pains, and fall sick more easily.

Changes in Behaviour

You may see changes in their behaviour in terms of appetite, sleeping habits, and avoidance of normal day-to-day social activities. They may also engage in unusual behaviour such as truancy or being disrespectful, although stress should not excuse such behaviour.

Emotional Changes

They may appear agitated, depressed or have difficulty managing their emotions. They may also seem increasingly irritable and express more negative or suicidal thoughts.

Cognitive Changes

They may have difficulties in concentrating on their school work or may be distracted during classes. They may also seem more forgetful and negligent.


What Can Parents Do?

If you feel lost, do not worry. It is not always easy to know what to do, particularly when your child keeps to themselves . Here are some ways you can try to reach out to them:

1. Identify the Issue and Be Candid About It

Your child may not realise that they are under too much stress or they may be too afraid to expose their vulnerabilities by admitting their struggles or failures. Being candid about the symptoms you have noticed and voicing your concerns to them can be an invitation for them to open up about the issues they are facing. Even if your child is not ready to talk about their problems, just expressing your concern adequately is a good way to let them know that you care and that they are not alone. 

2. Take the Time to Just Listen

When your child is ready to confide in you, listen to what they have to say calmly and attentively. Keep an open mind and avoid the urge to judge, blame, lecture or criticise their thoughts and actions. Invalidating their feelings will often leave them feeling isolated and lonely. Your main goal is to give them a safe space to be vulnerable and allow them to talk about what is bothering them.

3. Encourage Them To Take a Breather

Stress can leave your child mentally and physically exhausted but it may be hard for them to acknowledge that they need a break. It can help if a family member gives them a hand. You could consider asking them to accompany you on a short walk in the park, engaging them in some light-hearted conversation over a snack break or initiating a family karaoke session, just to help them take their mind off their worries for a while. Doing so could enable them to recharge, and find the strength to tackle their problems later on.

4. Be Patient and Help Them Think Things Through

As a parent, it is hard to see your child unhappy. There is always the temptation to fix all their problems for them. However, instead of doing so, you could turn this into a great teaching moment to help them learn healthy ways of coping with their worries and grow as an effective problem-solver. Work with them, calmly and patiently, to think through possible solutions to resolve the issue causing them stress. Simply having a sounding board can help reduce your child’s anxiety in approaching the issue and give them the motivation to find a solution. It is also important to remember to be positive and not dismissive or critical during the discussion to build their self-confidence.

5. Give them Space and Just Be There for Them

Sometimes your teenager may not feel ready to discuss what is bothering them. This is ok. However, you should not let this discourage you from reaching out to assure them that you are there for them. Even small gestures of love can go a long way; reminding them that their family is here for them and that they are not alone in the situation.

Lastly, it is important to note that your child may not always show outward signs of distress. They may seem to be performing well in various aspects of life but may be struggling internally to keep it up. As such, it is essential to invest time to get to know them and calibrate your expectations of them so that they have the space to grow at their pace and to do the things that they enjoy.