People experience many important life events during their teenage years. Adolescence is a time of rapid change when your teen learns how to cope with the pressures of life. Teens undergo physical, mental, and emotional changes during their teenage years.
Life events can trigger stress for your teen, especially unwanted and unanticipated events like losing a loved one, natural disasters, or divorce, which can affect your teen's mental health. Even anticipated change, like graduation, attending a new school, or starting a new job, can contribute to feelings of anxiety. It is normal for change to affect your teen's mental health, but they need to have a support system and people they can talk to. Excessive or chronic stress can harm a teen's mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
You can help your teen navigate the important life events they experience. You can help your teen understand how to manage their feelings when life changes. These tips will help you be a support system for your teen.
Life events teens experience: physical, family, emotional
Physical life events
- Unexpected illness or injury
- Exploring their sexuality
Family and relationship life events
- Parent’s divorce or remarriage
- Death or loss of a loved one
- Losing a pet
- New sibling
- Romantic relationships
Emotional life events
- Applying for college
- Getting a first job
- Learning to drive
- Attending a new school
- Getting bullied
- Experiencing peer pressure
As your teen experiences key life events, they will need your support. They will look to you for support in helping them address their feelings and adjust to the change. They also might look to you for strategies and skills to cope. You can help your teen develop skills or courage, flexibility, resilience, and compassion, skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Strategies to support your teen
Encourage your teen to talk about what they're feeling, and let them lead the conversation
Take time to address their questions and concerns, and don't multitask. Give your teen your full attention, and acknowledge and validate their feelings. Ask them if they want advice or just a listening ear. Sometimes, teens just want empathy and understanding, not solutions. Talk through negative emotions to help your teen process and accept adverse life events or life events that have made them feel bad.
Create a safe space, free of judgment
Remind your teen that change is an important part of life, both big and small. They will continue to experience change as they grow older and they will be better equipped to deal with important life events as they mature. Your teen might be young, but their feelings are still valid. Don't dismiss their feelings because they are young, but instead, listen carefully and validate their words.
Remind your teen of what they can and cannot control
Reassure your teen that they are not always powerless to important life events. There are things they can control. For example, your teen can control how hard they try, how much they study, how they treat others, their goals, who they spend time with, how much time they spend on social media, and how they react to situations. Help your teen look long-term and see the big picture.
Help your teen establish a routine
Consistency and stability will benefit your teen. Structure benefits children and teens of all ages, as it creates a sense of safety and predictability. Having a consistent routine will help your teen weather important life events. Help your teen eat well, prioritize sleep, exercise, and relax.
Be sure your teen is finding time to engage in the activities they enjoy and activities that help them de-stress. Activities like art, sports, reading, and listening to music, can help your teen calm down and serve as coping mechanisms when they experience stressful change.
Remind your teen that social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitch, can negatively affect their mental health. Social media contributes to a "culture of comparison," which can negatively affect your teen's self-image, especially as they are establishing their own identity. Try to consistently remind your teen not to compare themselves to others by acknowledging their own strengths and cultivating gratitude for who they are.
Being on social media can also impact your teen's ability to get good quality sleep, either because they are online late or the screen hinders their sleep quality. Try to help your teen disconnect from all screens before bed by encouraging other activities like reading or listening to music.
Know when to seek help from a mental health professional
Sometimes the weight of the world, and the weight of important life events are just too heavy. In these cases, your teen might need additional support from a mental health professional. Knowing when to help your teen seek extra support is just as important as supporting them yourself.
Experiencing change helps your teen learn coping skills
Important life events facilitate growth for your teen. From each event and change, they will grow and learn. They will become better equipped to handle all that life throws at them and they will learn how to express themselves effectively. Experiencing change will help your teen build coping mechanisms that will serve them throughout their life.
As your teen navigates significant changes, they will likely need your support and guidance. Encourage your teen to express their feelings in healthy ways and remind them that navigating through change takes practice.