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December 15, 2015

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Help Your Teen Find Value This Holiday Season

Life has a way of sneaking up on us. One minute you’re carefree, and the next your life is being shaped by the pressures of reality. This is true for our teens, as well. After all, they face a great deal of stress (daily!) from social and academic pressures to worrying about things like school violence.

We often talk about teens and peer pressure, but how bad is it?

It’s no secret friends play a complex role in the decisions our teenagers make. And for that reason, parents lay awake at night terrified about the peer pressure their teens are faced with and what sort of risky things they will be tempted to try.

Our teenagers are more likely to hang out with friends who are interested in the same things they are, making them, for instance, more likely to have a drink of alcohol if their friends are drinking alcohol. The apparent desire to “fit in” creates an internal pressure that impels our teenager to do what their friends are doing.

As the holidays draw nearer, stress and pressure take a toll on all of us. In addition to less sleep and more activities, teens are faced with mid-term exams and increased academic demands as school breaks for the holiday. Some of the signs of stress in teens are:

  • Headaches or stomachaches
  • Withdrawing from family or avoiding friends
  • Irritability or anger
  • Depression
  • Problems sleeping
  • Decreased appetite

It’s important for teens to use the holiday break to decompress and organize their internal world.

Holiday Activities to Do More of What Matters

Holiday service projects are always good for the soul – young and old alike. But our teenagers shouldn’t be concentrating on just giving back to the community and good-deed activities. They should be enjoying the spirit of the holiday, enjoying fun activities with their family and their friends. The following is a list all-encompassing, of activities that will help your teen relax and find enjoyment through the holiday season:

  • Closet clean out. Ask your teenager to go through his or her closet and donate to Goodwill or a homeless shelter.
  • Make greeting cards. Who doesn’t love an art project?
  • Adopt a soldier. The Adopt A Soldier program is a wonderful opportunity to touch on the sacrifices military service members and their families make for our country.
  • Organize a collection. A clothing drive, food drive, toy drive and school supply drive are all great causes.
  • Hunt for the family holiday tree.
  • Make holiday ornaments or a holiday journal. Use them both to chronicle this special time of year.
  • Learn a new holiday tradition from another family (or even another culture).
  • Sing carols for a cause.
  • Allow your teenager, and his or her friends, to decorate their bedroom.

To reduce holiday stress and to allow your teenager the time and space they need to decompress and enjoy life a little more, don’t overdo it and don’t worry about how things should be. We tend to compare ourselves with idealizations and notions of how happy and stress-free the holidays should be, but in fact, most families encounter tension and negative feelings. Our teenagers shouldn’t shape their reality around this type of stress, and neither should we.

If you have any concerns that your teenager is suffering from a deeper source of stress, contact Pacific Quest today to talk through your situation with a mental health professional.
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