Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reduce Your Stress by Reducing Your Daughter’s Stress

Guest Post by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

When your teen’s hormone -- and friendship -- fluctuations are in high drive and your nerves have been sassed and moped raw, tension, stress and heated arguments (or staunch silent treatments) are inevitable. You may feel like the only mom in the world with a surly inconsolable daughter, but you aren’t alone.

At these times it is difficult to talk to your daughter about -- well, anything, but particularly -- personal changes. It is critical for moms and daughters to have an open and ongoing dialogue to help moms raise healthy confident daughters and for daughters to have a safe place to ask the myriad of questions they have about becoming a woman.

Helping your daughter deal with stress

Stress is part of life and, though it inappropriately seems to be hitting kids younger and younger, there is no way to eliminate it completely. Regardless of your daughter’s age, teaching her effective coping skills will not only help her deal with the teenage scourge of stressors, it will also give her stress-reducing tools to benefit her for a lifetime. Here are some tips for when your daughter is giving you all the signs she is stressed out.

Listen reflectively

Ask your daughter what’s wrong. Listen calmly and non-judgmentally, allowing your daughter to express her opinions. And ask questions like, “Then what happened?” or “How did that make you feel?” to get the whole story.

Notice out loud

Casually observe your child’s feelings and let her know you are interested in hearing more -- without sounding accusatory.

Comment on your daughter’s feelings

Show her that you understand and care by saying something like, “That must have been upsetting.” This will help your daughter feel more connected to you.

Provide emotional support

Don’t criticize or belittle your daughter’s stressful feelings, even if they do appear trivial to you. Remember that teens don’t have an adult perspective and issues relating to relationships and body image are extremely important to them.

Provide realistic expectations

Celebrate your daughter’s successes (even if they aren’t exactly what you’d hoped for) and let her know you’re proud of her. Also, share with her that you, too, feel stressed sometimes and that occasionally feeling stressed is normal.

Provide structure, stability and predictability

Preparing your daughter for potentially stressful situations, like a healthcare appointment (particularly her first gynecological visit), will help ease her worries. Also, in general, make sure she understands your rules and routines and sticks to them -- or will have to deal with the consequences. Don’t bend or change rules in stressful situations -- it’s wiser for her to prepare herself for an upcoming stressful event. By keeping boundaries and expectations predictable, you actually help lower your daughter’s stress.

Model positive coping skills

If you practice good problem-solving and coping skills -- like exercising, laughing, or taking a break to reduce your own stress level -- your child will learn from you. Don’t criticize yourself or your daughter -- ever!

Help your child brainstorm a solution

Suggest activities that will help your daughter feel better now while also solving the problem. Encourage her to come up with creative solutions on her own -- this will help build her self-esteem.

Be organized

Teach your daughter good organizational and time-management skills early on. This can make homework and other responsibilities more manageable and less overwhelming and stressful. It also helps her gain time to relax. Easy starting points: suggest she set out her clothes and books the night before, pack a healthy lunch, write her to-do things down for the day or week.

Just be there

Your daughter may not want to talk but you being available to take a walk or watch a movie together can let her know you care -- and she’ll appreciate your presence.

Get professional help

If your daughter’s behavior seems way out of character and she’s having trouble functioning at school or at home or is she’s exhibiting serious anxiety, ask your doctor to refer you to a mental health specialist.

Developing good communication skills fosters raising a daughter who is confident, healthy and happy. That alone can do wonders in reducing your own stress and allow you to be confident in your parenting practices as well as healthy and happy, too.

Image of girl above: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.

Start Talking features succinct yet lively answers, sample conversations, and real life stories to help open the door to better mother/daughter communication. Rapini and Sherman have compiled more than 113 questions girls (and their moms) routinely ask -- or should be asking -- about health, sex, body image, and dating.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes, teens (girls or otherwise) have a real difficulty finding words for what bugs them, so trying to listen can be hard. Sometimes, a warm hug can help your daughter relax to the point of making sense.

    If this doesn't help, it's a good idea to keep in mind the question "What is she TRYING to say?" and helping her put it into words. Fortunately, this ability develops with practice (both for the mother and the daughter).

    Great post!


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