During my tween’s annual visit, the doctor asked my daughter if she was stressed. It struck me as a great question. Coming off a week where volleyball and basketball practices overlapped, a presentation to her Girl Scout troop and two big tests, my tween answered ‘yes’. As they discussed the reasons, I sat astonished that my daughter’s biggest worries had gone from which friend she wanted to play with to how she was going to find time to relax.
The tween years are marked with an increasing school workload, after-school sports and activities, developing friendships and high expectations for success. Mix all this with new technologies, constant connectivity and the challenges that come along with it and it’s no surprise tweens are labeling themselves as stressed. Identifying the signs can be difficult when parents just as busy as their children.
It’s crucial that we, parents, do recognize the signs and step in. I was lucky to have my child’s pediatrician point it out before a more serious problem developed. Now I know what to look for and can react accordingly.
A few signs your tween may be stressed:
- Changes in behavior. In the week leading up to the doctor’s appointment, my tween had two meltdowns one over a confusing homework question and the other at her little brother. Tweens have a hard time verbalizing their problems and will act out physically instead. It’s moments like these that serve as cues that there is a larger problem.
- Negative thoughts or statements. Tweens don’t understand stress. It’s a new concept to them. So they can’t label themselves as stressed. Instead, they may make negative statements about themselves. Saying things like, “I’m not good enough,” “I can’t do it,” “No one likes me,” and “I am stupid” are cues you may have a stressed tween.
- Pay attention to how they treat their friends. When we’re angry, we often lash out at people closest to us. In the same week as the doctor’s appointment, my daughter had an incident with her best friend. While it wasn’t a large argument, it was out of character for the two of them to stay mad at each other over an extended period of time. The cause of the argument, my tween had chosen to play volleyball during recess because she “need to practice more so she didn’t mess up during the game”. She was stressed.
So what do you do with a stressed tween? Talk about it and assess the situation. While sometimes tweens just need a break, a weekend without activities, time for themselves or a pep talk, don’t be afraid to seek professional help if it is more serious. A talk with my daughter’s pediatrician was all it took to set her back on the right track and arm me with the tools I need to identify a stressed out tween.