Helping our young people navigate pre-adulthood

Like adults, teenagers can experience stresses every day from all manner of seen and unseen factors.

Whether it is the demands and frustrations of school, negative self-thoughts, changes to their bodies, problems with friends or peers, parental issues, family health issues, taking on too much or having too high expectations, the potential issues in a teen’s life are seemingly endless.

Unless they know how to manage their concerns, many young people can become overloaded with stress, which can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness or turning to drug and/or alcohol to subdue their feelings.

And as a parent, knowing what to do to help your teenager can sometimes be overwhelming, especially with the incidence of youth mental illness on the rise.

Connect Health & Community’s Program Manager, Child, Youth and Family - Kate Temby, said while the thought of guiding teens through the stresses of pre-adulthood in the 21st century may be daunting, parents need not be overawed.

“While it may seem intimidating, they key thing to remember when trying to help your teen is that we were all young once.  By putting love at the core of everything you do and really listening to them, you can work together to find the right path and get the best result for teen facing stress,” she said.

With one in four Australians aged 16-24 experiencing mental illness, mental health is the number one health issue facing young Australians.  But there are steps parents and teenagers can take to ease the journey.

Parents can help their teens navigate stress by:

  • Monitoring if stress is affecting their health, behaviour, thoughts or feelings;
  • Listening carefully to them and watch for overloading;
  • Learning and modelling stress management skills; and
  • Supporting their involvement in sports and other social activities

Teens can decrease their stress by:

  • Exercising and eating regularly;
  • Getting plenty of sleep.
  • Avoiding excess caffeine intake (which can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation);
  • Avoiding illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco;
  • Learning relaxation exercises (abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques);
  • Developing assertiveness skills. For example, stating feelings in polite, firm and not aggressive or passive ways: "I feel … when you …", "Please stop <behaviour>."
  • Rehearsing/practicing situations that cause stress, like presenting to class;
  • Learning practical coping skills, like breaking large tasks into smaller, more attainable milestones;
  • Reducing negative self-talk: challenge negative thoughts with alternative neutral or positive thoughts. For example, "My life will never get better" can become “I may feel hopeless now, but my life can get better if I work at it and get some help";
  • Learning satisfaction from doing a competent or "good enough," job rather than demanding perfection from yourself and others;
  • Taking a break from stressful situations. Listening to music, talking to a friend, drawing, writing or spending time with a pet, can all reduce stress; and
  • Building a network of friends who help you cope in a positive way.

Ms Temby said that by using these, and other techniques, teenagers can begin to manage their stress before the pressure becomes too much.

“The key for parents and kids is to stop, communicate and slow down.  If everything feels like it is spinning too fast …stop, take a deep breath, talk and move forward together.  Slowly,” she said.

“If teens show signs of being overly stressed, Connect Health & Community, and other support networks, offer a range of services to help young people and their families tackling the challenges of youth and mental health,” she said.

For more information on Connect Health & Community’s youth support services, call 03) 0575 5333 or visit

Headspace, run by the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, offers support, information and advice to young people between the ages of 12 to 25.  Visit  to find out more or find a centre near you.

Other online resources:


Mind Matters:



Reference; Growing Happy, Healthy Young Minds (Dr. Ramesh Manocha) Expert Advice on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Young People.

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