Tips for Teens: Recognize Stress and Reinforce Healthy Habits

05/14/2020 Share Tweet

Experience gives us a mature perspective to manage challenges and changes. For keiki and teens, though, the complexity and unpredictability of the pandemic is likely new — and likely overwhelming. 


To help the youth in our lives manage stress related to COVID-19 and resulting lifestyle changes, here are four things we can do:

  • Recognize signs of stress.
  • Help them open up about their feelings.
  • Empathize and give them tools to get through the experience.
  • Build trust so they’ll talk with you again.


Recognize signs of stress.

Everyone deals with stress differently. When it comes to children who may not know how to express their feelings, changes in behavior are one way we can identify they’re struggling. The Center for Disease Control includes the following on their list of signs that your keiki may be experiencing stress:


In younger children

  • Excessive crying or irritation. 
  • Returning to outgrown behaviors.
  • Unusual eating or sleeping habits.


In teens

  • Poor school performance.
  • Avoiding activities they’ve enjoyed in the past.
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain.
  • Acting out.


Help them open up about their feelings.

Teens especially don’t talk on our timetable. So speak with them on theirs. When is your child more likely to open up? When you’re running errands together? Cleaning up after dinner? Walking the dog? Youth Pastor Kurt Johnston calls this the “Window of Conversation,” the time when your child opens a unique window of opportunity to share what’s on their mind. Meet them in their moment, and you’re more likely to learn about their feelings.


Empathize and give them tools to get through the experience.

Before jumping to a solution, most teens want to be heard first. If we are quick to answer unspoken questions or give advice before we’ve been asked, we might lose the window of opportunity to relate and deepen the kind of relationship teens rely on as they’re building their own awareness and ability to handle stress. Try these three tips first:


Ask questions to understand their concerns. 

  • Share your own experiences, past or present, with change or uncertainty.
  • Reassure them that they are safe and perhaps also how you’ve prepared.


When it feels right, empower them with information and tools: 

  • Share the facts about COVID-19. 
  • Share some of your own tips for managing stress.
  • Talk about things you can do together or commitments you can make to keep the situation and your lives in a healthy perspective.


Build trust so they’ll talk with you again.

When you have another moment alone with them, follow-up on your conversation. See if they have more questions or new insights. If you’ve made commitments to one another, keep them — and keep as many regular routines as you can. In times of uncertainty, everyone finds comfort in things they can count on. If you don’t yet have routines, create some. From maintaining a school schedule for learning to making fun or relaxing rituals, the introduction of reliable activities creates stability for the mind and for emotions.

Lastly, be a role model for your teen. Demonstrate how you keep balance in your life: eating well, stretching or exercising to keep your body strong, getting good rest, staying in touch with the people you love — whatever priorities outlast the pandemic.



Centers for Disease Control, Stress and Coping for Parents


The Queen’s Cares Blog was created to support our patients through the nonclinical effects of COVID-19. We recognize people are struggling with circumstances outside of their health; they don’t have to deal with them alone. With preeminent teaching hospitals as part of our family, we believe in the value of education, and we’re sharing what we know to empower our community for better physical, mental and emotional health. We’re with you, HawaiĘ»i.