Today’s young people experience ever-increasing levels of pressure. The desire to fit in, make friends, excel at school and study, or simply manage the many expectations of their teachers, coaches, parents and friends can all impact on a boy’s health and wellbeing.
Stress, anxiety and depression can overwhelm some teenagers as they progress through adolescence. Be vigilant in looking out for these five signs that suggest your son is not coping with stress.
1. Emotional outbursts
Emotional outbursts can be the result of hormonal changes experienced through puberty, but they can also be a sign that your son is struggling with something emotionally. Anxiety, stress and depression can cause children to be highly emotional. If your son’s emotional outbursts are persistent, initiate a conversation, try to identify the cause, show love and understanding, and try not to be judgemental.
2. Negative changes in behaviour
Agitation, irritability, moodiness, loss of interest in activities and social withdrawal can all be signs of mental health concerns. While all of these symptoms may be a normal part of adolescence, if they persist and impair your son’s ability to function, it may be a sign that your son is having trouble coping. Encourage conversations with your son to regularly ‘check-in’ and ensure he is sharing his concerns with you. Relate stories of your youth and how you managed similar issues and encourage him to talk about what he is feeling and how to manage it. Consider seeking professional help if the behaviours are continuous and unrelenting.
3. Complaints of feeling ‘sick’
Increased levels of stress can cause a variety of physical symptoms, including nausea, headaches, light-headedness and breathlessness. If you son is constantly tired, has difficulty concentrating or has unexplained aches and pains it could be sign that he is not coping with school, family and other pressures.
4. Changes in performance
If your son is not coping, he may begin to fall behind in his school work, training or other areas of interest. Loss of interest in activities or hobbies he may have previously enjoyed, may also be a sign of stress. Encourage your son to really think about why he is lacking enthusiasm or falling behind in areas of his life. Does he need to talk about his troubles in order to release his anxiety?
This is a very typical sign that something may be bothering your son. We all struggle to relax and sleep when we have something on our mind. Encourage your son to practise mindfulness mediation before bedtime, and let go of his thoughts from the day. He may also like to keep some paper by his bed, so he can write down what may be worrying him, releasing it from his mind.
If you are trying to determine if your son is stressed, open up a dialogue and share with him the signs that are worrying you and why you are concerned. Ask your son to share his thoughts and be willing to really listen to what he is telling you. Don’t ask too many questions and don’t be tempted to lecture – instead, make it very clear that you are willing to provide whatever support your son needs.
Talk about the meaning of stress, how your son will know he is stressed, what being stressed looks and feels like, and how he can manage stress. Normalise it by reassuring your son that stress is an everyday part of life and discuss healthy ways of dealing with it.
If your son is unwilling to open up, be gentle but persistent and don’t downplay his feelings – while his problems may seem silly to you, they are very real for your son, and simply acknowledging how he feels will make him feel understood and supported.
As parents, we have an instinctive understanding of our children. If you feel that something is not quite right with your son, but he won’t open up, trust your instincts. Enlist the help of an outsider such as a trusted teacher, school counsellor or family doctor. If however, any of the above signs are significant in terms of their intensity, persistence and impact on your son’s functioning, or they represent a significant change for your son, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional.
Trinity Grammar School is fuelled by a pastorally aware culture with exceptionally high levels of individual student attention, and we pride ourselves on knowing, understanding and nurturing every student.
The Trinity Education Support Services (TESS) department offers a wide range of support for boys, including those who need social and emotional support. The TESS Counselling department comprises psychologists who offer individual counselling and assessment for learning and mental health needs, small group-based programmes, parent information sessions, and assistance with life skills programming and year group presentations.
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