YouthZone therapist: Teen, parent coping mechanisms not substantially different

Tina Olson sees a lot of teenagers who are dealing with stress and trying to find ways to deal with typical teen pressures. Likewise, their parents are often stressed about how to deal with that stress, she said.

As senior therapist with YouthZone, the youth advocacy and crisis management organization serving Garfield County and the Roaring Fork Valley, she has three pieces of advice.

And they apply to both the teens and the adults involved in the situation.

“If I give them three things to think about, they’re more apt to remember it and use it,” Olson said.

Stressed teenager
Shutterstock illustration

1. Talk to someone

“If you keep something to yourself, you tend to create stories that aren’t true and start a belief system that’s false,” Olson said.

For the teen, that “someone” should not be a best friend but more appropriately an adult figure. For the parents, it should be other parents or a family therapist, she suggested.

“Number one for parents and kids is, don’t be afraid to talk to someone.”

2. Breathe

“When we feel stressed, the first thing we do is tense up, and our breathing changes,” Olson advised.

“I use this a lot with the kids, where I try to get them to take deep breaths and do some relaxing things with them.”

Whenever a person is trying to cope with stress, it’s easy to let it take over your body.

“It’s sort of like a body check-in,” she said.

3. Keep a sense of humor

“You have to find some humor around these things, because adolescence is not a permanent condition,” Olson said.

Teens have a tendency to dip into what she called “catastrophic thinking.”

“They’re so in the moment, and consumed by all that’s happening right here and now. Teens need some reality checks,” she said.

Especially if the anxiety is around a particular upcoming event or milestone in one’s education, “the anticipation of the event is more anxiety-provoking than the event itself.”

That anxiety is normal, and so is feeling down about something, Olson said.

“We live in this world where all the messages are telling us we have to be OK all the time,” she said. “It’s OK to not be OK.”

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