How to help your teen master coping skills, navigate emotions
In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:
- What are effective ways to cope?
- What are warning signs?
- What are helpful resources?
Teens can experience many intense emotions throughout a day, and it can be challenging for them to learn how to temper them.
“Teenagers have a lot of stress and self-doubt,” says Dr. Diane Kelly Andreou, director of Boys Town South Florida's behavioral health clinic in West Palm Beach. “The earlier parents begin working with their child, the better the child will be able to handle emotions and social situations.”
Indeed, you can play a big role in helping your teen learn healthy coping skills, experts say. Start by teaching them to acknowledge their feelings and manage their reaction to them.
“Kids need to understand feelings aren’t wrong and what they’re experiencing is normal,” says Dr. Kelly Everson, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Palm Beach County. “It’s how we respond to emotions that is either healthy or unhealthy. Parents can help kids accept their feelings and work through the emotions that feel bad.”
1. WHAT ARE EFFECTIVE WAYS TO COPE?
The best way to manage emotions is to use coping skills, such as getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising.
“Actively managing emotions results in better outcomes,” Andreou says. “Kids need to do something, not ignore their feelings or expect someone to rescue them.”
Encourage your teen to spend time with friends — in real life, not via social media or other virtual forms of communication.
“Teens run into situations daily that can trigger nervous or anxious emotions,” Everson says. “Movement-based techniques, such as taking a bathroom break or getting a drink of water, are most helpful for coping.”
2. WHAT ARE WARNING SIGNS?
A common warning sign of overwhelming stress is withdrawing from friends, family or activities. Teens may complain of physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches. They also may be more irritable than usual, or their grades may suffer.
Try to set the tone for positive communication before a stressful situation occurs. Encourage them to be open about their feelings and talk to you about it.
“Parents need to be active listeners, not problem-solvers,” Andreou says. “Don’t listen from a place of judgment. Show interest in what your teen is doing, ask questions and engage.”
3. WHAT ARE HELPFUL RESOURCES?
Healthy coping skills are essential to resolve stress and build positive relationships. Teens can use these skills throughout their lifetime in a range of situations.
Think about your own coping skills before focusing on your child’s. How do you handle stress? Are you setting a good example for your child?
“Modeling behavior pays off in dividends right away,” Everson says. “Parents can model taking a break during an argument by listening to music, walking the dog or going for a run. It shows that even parents get mad and that it’s okay to step away and come back to a situation.”
Here are some resources in Palm Beach County to help your family establish these practices:
- Behavioral health clinic at Boys Town South Florida
- Educational nonprofit organizations, such as National Alliance on Mental Illness Palm Beach County, which offer guidance and support groups
- Parenting seminars and other programming funded through Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County
SOURCES:• Dr. Kelly Everson, president, National Alliance on Mental Illness Palm Beach County
• Dr. Diane Kelly Andreou, behavioral health clinic director, Boys Town South Florida
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Positive Parenting Program, known as Triple P — free seminars and one-on-one guidance to help families improve their parent-child relationships561-841-3500 Website Email
Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County
Positive Parenting Program, known as Triple P, offers free seminars and one-on-one guidance to help families improve the parent-child relationship561-616-1222 Website Email
Boys Town South Florida
Common Sense Parenting — a six- to seven-week parenting course to improve family communication, discipline and relationships561-612-6000 Website Email
National Alliance on Mental Illness Palm Beach County
Family-to-Family — free 12-session course for caregivers of family members with severe mental illness561-588-3477 Website Email