Understanding teen stress: Tips for parents and carers

Life is full of ups and downs, and the teenage years are no exception.


Adolescents face many challenges, from physical changes to academic pressures, social dynamics, and emerging identities. While these experiences can be exhilarating, they can also be daunting — not just for teens but also for their parents and carers. So, while stress is to be expected during this period, it can significantly impact their well-being if it is ongoing or chronic.

As a parent or guardian, knowing how to spot stress in your teen is important. So, what are some signs of stress in teens?

Signs of stress in teens

Some common signs include irritability, moodiness, withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleeping patterns, headaches and stomach aches. If your teenager is under stress, it could affect their academic performance. They may begin to procrastinate, become a perfectionist or develop a fear of failure.

It can be challenging to tell the difference between typical teenage behaviour and signs of a more serious problem. If you notice that your child is having more conflicts with friends or avoiding social activities they usually enjoy, it could be a sign that they are struggling. They may be more sensitive to criticism or rejection and have sudden mood swings or emotional outbursts. Although these behaviours are common among teenagers, it's important to trust your instincts as a parent to determine if they are struggling more than usual. Remember that you know your child better than anyone. 

Normalising stress

Adolescence is a stressful time! It's hard work being a teenager, and experiencing stress is a natural part of growing up and experiencing life's challenges. Validate your teen's feelings and reassure them that it's okay to seek help when needed.

Seeing stress as a positive

Stress is a natural part of life and can even be beneficial if managed correctly. For example, students may find it stressful to cope with a lot of work before exams, but they can manage this by developing study strategies that work for them, seeking help from teachers or tutors, and taking care of themselves by practising mindfulness or exercising. This helps them perform better academically, and they learn to understand their strengths and abilities, which they can use to overcome future challenges.

Teenagers often experience stress and emotional turmoil due to conflicts with their peers or social rejection. By working through these situations, they can learn to understand other people's perspectives, practice empathy and communication skills and build stronger relationships. They also learn how to have open dialogues, actively listen, and resolve conflicts.

Strategies for parents and carers

If you notice any signs that your child might be stressed, talk to them about how they are feeling. Young people may find it challenging to communicate their feelings, so if they do open up, it's important to listen to them and try to see things from their point of view. You might be tempted to step in to solve their problems but this is not necessarily what they want or need. Sometimes all they need is someone to talk to.

When supporting your teenager, it's essential to give them independence while still being there for them. This stage is about allowing them to make decisions, learn from their experiences, and develop their problem-solving skills. They don't need you to fix every issue they face but to empower them by providing guidance if they ask for it. You can ask your teenager if they want you to listen or help them work out their next steps. Let them know you trust them and are there for them if they need you.

Here are some practical ways you can help your kid manage their stress:


Encourage your teen to limit their tech use before bedtime and keep digital devices out of the bedroom.

Physical activity

Exercise is good for their mental and physical health and can be a great way to relieve stress.

Hobbies and interests

Doing the things they enjoy can be a great way to relieve stress.

Spending time outdoors

Encourage your teen to spend time outside and breathe in some fresh air.

It's important to lead by example. When you practice these habits, you set a good example, helping them learn the importance of being kind and compassionate towards themselves.

Identifying when stress becomes an issue

If you have concerns about your child’s stress levels or mental health, reach out for professional support. You can check in with your child's school to see how they are doing there but, if at all possible, talk to your child about this first rather than going behind their back. It might be beneficial for your child to talk through their feelings with a counsellor, but once again, checking with your teen first is essential. They might be hesitant at first, but you can mention it as an option for them and see if they decide that it is something they would like to explore.

Remember that working collaboratively with your teen to help them manage their stress effectively not only helps them but also provides an opportunity for growth and connection.  

Counselling for parents can help you find ways to best support your teenager. I work with parents to help them understand and manage their feelings as well as their child’s and to work out coping strategies. Check out my profile to learn more about how we can work together. You can get in touch with me by clicking the ‘email me’ button below.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Seaford, East Sussex, BN25
Written by Jennifer Warwick, MSc Psych, BACP Registered | Counsellor and Parenting Expert
Seaford, East Sussex, BN25

I am a BACP registered counsellor working online. I work with people who struggle to balance work, home and family life. People constantly rush, looking after others over themselves and are exhausted.

I specialise in supporting parents and carers as they navigate their child's tween and teenage years. Contact me for an introductory chat by phone.

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