Teenagers and stress

Two weeks back we wrote an article “ A hug a day keeps stress away” in which we shared the science of what happens to children when they receive warm caring touches from their parents. We spoke about how touch activates natural calming chemicals like opioids and oxytocin in the brain. When children are brought up with loving physical contact from their parents and caregivers  they grow up to experience the world as a safe place and have a healthy capacity of effectively dealing with stress in adult life.


With young children keeping this physical contact is easy. They come to us asking for hugs, to be carried or express a need to sit on our laps. Yet what happens when these children get older , especially when they become teenagers. When  when we try  to hug them they may feel awkward and  pull away 

The teenage years are often quite stressful for children. They are at an age where they are not only struggling with  academic pressure and fitting in with their peer group but also  figuring out their own identity. This stress they experience comes  in different ways. Some teenagers complain of headaches, and others  get other physical symptoms such as excess acne or allergies. Many parents talk about taking their teenager to the doctor for a medical problem , only to be told the cause is stress. How, then ,can we help our teenagers with stress?


There are many aspects to reducing stress for our children. Much of this is about reflecting on the pressure or expectations we put on them. For the purpose of this article we would like to dwell on how we could use physical touch to reduce stress for our teenagers. 


When teens complain of a headache we could offer a head massage. This is great way of getting them to relax specially during exams. Using a soothing balm and gently massaging forehead or rubbing their scalp calms them down. Often we think it's an easier remedy for them to pop a pain medicine but it's amazing to know  how much relief they get from a parent's touch. This is because of the calming chemicals that are released when we are touched in a nurturing and caring manner. There are other simple touches like oiling their hair or  a back rub before they sleep which helps them fall asleep in a peaceful frame of mind. 


Sometimes it is the gender divide which plays its part in fathers becoming distant from daughters and mothers from sons. This, unfortunately, leads to children losing out on the relationship which they really need.  We may feel awkward because they almost look like adults but at heart they are still children who want this connection. Its up to us to find many such opportunities of comfortable  ways  to keep this connection with them.