Mentoring Youth Through Stress

The teenage period which is precariously perched between the ages of 13 and 19 is a challenging time. It could easily get tumultuous too, especially when the raging hunger for freedom finds a world that provides multiple opportunities for self-harm in the pursuit for happiness, fulfillment and success.

Enter the aching archery of adolescence. It is hit-and-miss for most which is hardly surprising. This transitional stage of physical and psychological development that generally occurs during the period from puberty to legal adulthood is usually associated with teenage years, but its physical, psychological or cultural expressions may begin earlier than the teenage years and end later. 

Life is a rollercoaster for most young people. It whips teenagers as hard as it does anyone and, in the process, can result in feelings of high anxiety and stress. This article will provide ways to help adults in mentoring troubled teens. Five causes of teen stress and how teenagers can be supported through these challenging times might include the following:

  1. Academic stress.

In a world that sets most of its standards by academic qualifications, academic stress is hardly surprising. Given that teenage years fall squarely within a person’s school years, most   teenagers are put under unbearable levels of pressure so they can meet up with the growing demands of an insatiable society. This burden can be a fatal one as there have been well-documented cases of teenagers committing suicide because they could not cope with the burden of school demands.

Teachers and parents have loads of work to do in checking this kind of stress.

Teenagers should be learning in environments that ease pressure, and within school systems that emphasize that, in the long run, a healthy and balanced lifestyle is even more valuable than academic qualifications.

  1. Social stress.

In a world fast lived on social media, social situations are getting more awkward for many teenagers. This could stoke inert feelings of inadequacy and threaten whatever self-esteem a teenager may have gathered.

Social media—using the carousel of the internet—has shown itself a gleeful purveyor of illusions and elusive perfection. It is well documented that people suffer staggering losses of self-esteem when they are held up by the light of what they see on social media which is often blinding and ultimately deceitful in most cases. Teenagers see stuff on social media and think everyone else’s life is perfect but not theirs. This can stir up lots of stress.

Parents and life coaches must continue to stress the uniqueness of each teen while at the same time exposing the fallacious benchmarks of the social media. At the same time they should discuss the responsible use of social media with teenagers.

  1. Financial pressure.

The lack of money on its own is a weighty stressor. This can be debilitating even to adults. What it does to teenagers is huge.

Teenage years fall squarely within school years and it is not expected that teenagers should eke out their own livelihoods. It means invariably that they have to depend on their parents or guardians to provide whatever financial needs they may have. When financial lack results, it often collides with a lack of experience of this lack and the skills to handle the unavoidable distress. This can be highly stressful for teenagers.

This kind of stress is way trickier to cope with. Help them to understand that instant gratification and a sense of entitlement are unlikely to assist their personal development. Where possible, encouraging teenagers to seek part-time or casual work will help them prepare for the world of work beyond school, teach them some of the key employability skills they need and help them appreciate the importance of financial management.

  1. Traumatic events.

While trauma can seriously impact our lives, it might be more pronounced in the lives of teenagers than younger children.

Traumatic events happen on a frighteningly regular basis. Whether it is a mass shooting, terrorist attack, abuse or death of a loved one, teens are hit as hard as anyone.

What this means then is that teens live through the highly distressing and stressful traumatic events that affect everybody. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable, as their brains are still developing and they tend to respond emotionally rather than with reason and reflection.

Parents, teachers and mentors have a role to play in in guiding teenagers through trauma. Psychologists have an especially profound role to play in helping teenagers survive and cope with these traumatic events with as little damage to their well-being as possible.

  1. Drastic changes in life.

Life could change in a heartbeat. This axiom is put to the test in the reality of daily living and always proves itself true. People have different experiences and situations and, given the vagaries of life, perfectly comfortable life circumstances could spiral into chaos quickly.

Such experiences could be highly stressful for teenagers. Again, parents, teachers, mentors and others can guide teenagers through such challenging times and help them develop the skills to cope.

In conclusion, the teenage life is often full of light, love and laughter. However, it is also a period in life between childhood and becoming a young adult—a transitional period between the blissful ignorance of childhood and the brutal realities of adulthood.

Events and expectations can come thick and fast and teenagers are expected to handle all that is thrown at them.

In a society that is always demanding more, this can be a nightmare.

This nightmare loses its potency when parents, teachers, mentors and others are able to bring their unique set of skills and perspectives in preparing teens for a life full of uncertainties while at the same time encouraging them to chase their dreams and look into the future with a sense of excitement and hope.

Guest writer: Ayesha Lee (2019)

Contributed from: mentoring troubled teens