Stress can be a vicious enemy for people no matter what age they are. But it can be especially tough during exam time for kids about to graduate high school.

Stress can disrupt sleep, prevent digestion, alter moods, weaken emotional health and destroy motivation.

The greater the stress and the longer it persists, the greater damage it can cause to the individual. In fact, it can get so bad for some teens that the “light at the end of the tunnel” cannot be seen. There seems to be no relief in sight, and no way out.

As parents, we must always be watching for sign of stress in our children, especially our teens. We must also remember that they are not experiencing the same stressors we are. Also, the pressures we faced as teens may differ from the ones your teen faces now. Because of the generation gap, teens may feel we do not understand their stressors.

We do not have to understand, but we must communicate effective ways for students to deal with big and small stressors in their lives. After all, they do not have the experience to assure themselves that they can get through and overcome the current feelings they are having. Communicating with them is key.

Start with communicating that how we think about a stressful situation and our choices concerning the situations affects our feelings and emotions. Give your youth positive coping strategies such as talking to a trusted peer or adult.

Another strategy that may help is to make lists of responsibilities and break tasks, chores and work into pieces.

Additionally, using the positive coping strategy of taking breaks is refreshing. Eating healthy snacks, hydrating or taking part in some form of exercise will help ease some stress. Journaling, praying and laughing may also act as positive coping strategies.

Using such positive coping strategies will help teens in the long run, while negative coping strategies such as ignoring the issue or negative thoughts and emotions are only short-term solutions. Teens with a lot of stress may need to have help with preparing a personal stress plan. This plan should include positive coping strategies, what stressful things to avoid and how to let some things go. Remind your youth that they can learn to control or lessen stress because stress comes from how we respond to it.

By continually talking, identifying what your stressed teen looks or acts like and working through these issues, your teen will learn to handle the stressors in their life while they are small and before they take over and control them. They will be empowered to keep themselves motivated with an “I can do this” attitude.

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Angee (Henry) Nott is a former University of Nebraska track athlete who was a three-time Big 12 champion and a 10-time All-American. She was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. She has coached track and cross country at Boys Town High School since 2004, where she is also an English teacher. She continues to empower her students to reach their potential on the track and in the classroom.

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