Stress Busting Tips for Parents and Teens: Part Three

With graduation just a month or two away, stress is nearing an all-time high for soon-to-be graduates and their parents. That’s why we created a three-part series on ways to bust stress for parents and teens! This week is our third (and last) installment of our series, and it just so happens to be a guest post by teacher, mother, and advocate Tammy Walsh. (In case you missed the first two parts, here is the first and the second.)
Our guest author, Tammy Walsh, is a mother of two, a high school math teacher, and a contributor to The Five Moms Blog on She has a passion for addressing the issue of substance abuse openly and honestly with both parents and teens. Through her work with The Five Moms, she hopes to reach more parents on a national level, educating and empower them with the tools to make positive changes in their communities. We invite you to join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks Tammy, for sharing your advice on relieving stress with our audience!

It’s always important to remember that even though certain aspects in our family lives are slowing down, our teens still have a lot going on. This can be a tense time of year, particularly for high school seniors who will have many important decisions to make in the next six to eight months. During this time period, it can be challenging for teens to effectively manage the stress that results from attempting to balance wrapping up high school and preparing for college with extracurricular activities and a social life, but we, as parents, must help them find the calm in the midst of what may seem like a storm. This transition is tough, but we can help make it as smooth as possible for our teen, and in turn, alleviate stress for the whole family.
Here are some tips for smooth transitioning:

Get plenty of rest. This is especially important for our teens as they need to be energized and able to perform at their peak – whether they are working on end of semester projects, studying for midterm exams or writing college applications. As parents, we also need restful sleep as it provides us with the energy to engage with our teens. Create a sleep ritual that will help you fall asleep on time and encourage your teen to do the same. Make your family go screen-less at least an hour before bed. This means no phone, no laptop, no TV. Instead, unwind with music or a book.

Unplug and decompress. Along the same lines as above, set time for the family to disconnect from phones and computers. We often get so caught up in our online lives that hours can pass before we even realize we haven’t had any physical activity or interaction. Emails, text messages and social app notifications can make us feel like we always have to be plugged-in, but at some point we may need a break from the constant phone-check. Encourage your family to meditate, reflect, have meaningful conversations or go outside and get some fresh air.

Don’t neglect hobbies. To avoid an abrupt transition for your teen, encourage him or her to keep up with his or her hobbies and favorite activities. There will be many changes for your teen in the future. However, through all the changes he or she may experience, setting aside time for hobbies can provide a sense of stability and a means of creative expression.

Maintain perspective. Celebrate milestones, but don’t exaggerate mistakes or failures. Blowing problems out of proportion can cloud the lesson that your teen may have otherwise learned from the situation. If your teen has broken a rule or received a bad grade, it’s important for both of you to take a step back and assess the situation rationally to reach the most beneficial solution. Also, it may help to think of the transition ahead as a new adventure of triumphs and challenges for the family to embark on together.
Give each other space. Sometimes, as hard as it can be for us parents to admit, our teens don’t need our constant advice, but rather space to process this new experience. The benefits of giving our teens this “alone time” extend to the entire family and will allow parents and siblings to handle the transition by themselves as well.

Changes, challenges and choices are standard stepping stones along the journey of life. During the teen years, it’s important that these moments are not marked by stress, tension or worry, but rather by confidence and a bit of curiosity. What other tips or tools have you used to guide your teen and family through a major transition, such as the transition from high school to college?

Stress Busting Tips for Parents and Teens: Part Two

In the second part of our series on stress (check out part one here), we’ll focus on how we, as parents, can help control stress in our own lives as well as in the lives of our children. Of course, we want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem!

As parents, we play the leadership role in nurturing our children to be healthy, self -confident, and well-prepared future adults. That includes fostering healthy stress levels for all parties. With growing evidence that high adult stress is being passed on to our children, we’ve got a lot of work to do on ourselves!

Much can be gained by understanding our children’s stressors and how we may be contributing to the situation. Is our behavior or the way we are communicating with them stressing them out even more? To that end, here are some powerful parenting strategies to help reduce their pressure:

  1. Examine our influence. Are we tuned in to our children’s stress and whether we’re adding fuel to the fire? Do our children see us as part of the solution or part of the problem? Do we need some constructive change in our parenting?
  2. Value the child more than their performance. Several teen stressors can be attributed to overzealous, performance-focused parents with control issues. Is doing their best good enough? It should be. Our children need to know they are loved unconditionally for who they are, not what they do or how well they do.
  3. Avoid overcommitment. During the teen years, the desire for credentials can cause chronic overscheduling at the expense of sleep, exercise, and down time. Do our children have the capacity to apply their stress reducers?
  4. Alleviate decision-making pressure. Reassure them that their future will not depend on getting into a specific college or choosing a specific career. We need to let them live their dream without forcing the issue.

At the same time, we parents have our own share of stress to manage! Launching a teen into adulthood is a defining moment. It’s fraught with mixed emotions, important decisions, and, often relationship strains as they exert their independence. We marvel at how it happened so fast, inevitably with some regrets.

In our book, Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, we offer strategies to help parents cover the bases, build an enduring relationship, and position our teens (and ourselves!) for a successful transition. Here are some stress-busting tips we share:

  1. Remember, you are not responsible for their life. You’ve offered love, security, wisdom, and guidance, but you’re not in the driver’s seat forever. You’ve moved over to the passenger seat and soon will be in the back seat. They’ll make mistakes just like you did, and that’s okay! Relax a little, release your control grip, and extend yourself some grace!
  2. Focus on building relationship capital. This is a critical time to invest in your relationship, even if you don’t see immediate payoffs. The keys are showing unconditional love, mutual trust, and understanding, and affirming their worth and potential. Do more “sharing with” than “talking to.” And, have fun!
  3. Recruit positive third party voices. Parenting really is a team sport. Actively seek out great adult role models who will reinforce your messages and develop relationships with your children. It’s a total win win!
  4. Remember, your identity reaches beyond your role as parent. For many parents (especially empty nesters), the launch of a child unleashes an epic identity crisis, causing them to hold on for dear life. This is a self-confidence destroyer for our children. Yes, life will change, but it can still be great!

Sure, the teen years offer unusual challenges and stress. But, handled constructively, they will position your teen to soar and your relationship to grow in new and wonderful ways. There’s nothing like it in the world.

Parents, how do you rate when it comes to your own personal stress level? How’s your relationship with your teen during this especially high-pressure season for them? Do you have any tips to share with other parents? We’d love to hear from you!

Stress Busting Tips for Parents and Teens: Part One

I recently had an enlightening conversation with a college sophomore who is destined for a great future. She has a delightful personality and is blessed with a rare blend of analytical and interpersonal skills. Her resume of accomplishments is a mile long. So, can you imagine my surprise when she confided to being totally stressed out about her future? Will she find a job? Would she be accepted into a decent grad school? She doubted whether her 3.97 GPA was good enough.

Meanwhile, as an author and speaker, I meet with a wide variety of audiences, including teens, parents, educators, mentors, counselors, and business leaders. Which is the most needy, anxious, and stressed out? The hands down winner: parents of teens!

Although a little stress can be a good thing, too much can be unhealthy and counterproductive. Unfortunately, when it comes to the teen years, it appears that things are getting out of control for all parties.

What to do?

Let’s start with teens. For them, it’s a time of unprecedented growth, transition, and decisions about their future. Part child and part adult, they’re discovering their identity, building their credentials, and planning their next step. Soon, life will never be the same, and it can be overwhelming. They’re stressed about:

  • School—homework, grades, activities—doing well enough to punch the ticket
  • Social life—friendships, popularity, drama, peer pressure
  • Future—decisions about college, career, service, and building their resume
  • Busyness—overcommitment, time management, lack of sleep/down time
  • Family—relationship strains and living up to their parents’ expectations

That’s a lot!

With that, here are some helpful stress-busting strategies for teens:

  1. Keep a healthy perspective. Everyone has stress—the question is how we deal with it. Do we take charge and channel it into a productive plan or do we let it consume us? Do we focus on what we can control and make the best of situations where we can’t?
  2. Be self aware. Identify the chief sources of your stress and ways they may be prevented or limited. Call out any underlying fears and explore ways to alleviate them. Understand and tap into your most helpful stress busters (e.g., exercise, quiet time, prayer, music/movies, humor, sharing with friends and family, serving others). And, be sure to get your rest, eat well, and confide in your loved ones.
  3. Focus more on process than outcome. Stress levels rise when we emphasize specific outcomes rather than simply doing our best. Examples include GPAs, admission to specific colleges, dating, making the team, and selecting our career/major. There is no single pathway to success, including which college you attend. And, for most high schoolers, it’s premature to know which major/career is the best fit. Finally, today’s “friend count” will seem silly in hindsight as you preserve a smaller core of loyal friends who matter most.
  4. Keep balanced and develop good time management skills. Today, busyness, distraction, and overcommitment are interfering with our balance and productivity. Now is the time to sharpen your prioritization skills and to view your time as a precious asset. Manage your pace. And, when deciding which activities to pursue (technology included!), always consider their value and time requirements and your available

During this incredibly stressful time, teens are feeling a lot of pressure and are pulled in many different directions. As their parents, teachers, and mentors, we need to rally around them and help them apply the above principles to keep that stress under control. If you have a teen in your life who is worried about their future, we’d love for you to share this post with them! And remember, stay tuned for the next portion of this series: stress-busting tips for parents!

How do you personally deal with stress? If you have a teen who is stressed about college, how have you helped them deal with it? What has been the most stressful part of raising a “future adult” for you? We’d love to hear from you!

The Power of Dependability

How do you and the young people in your life rate when it comes to following through on your promises? As any parent or manager will attest, dependability is one of the most valuable qualities of successful people!.

Imagine it’s your summer vacation (especially my Northeast friends!) and you’ve had the pleasure of reading two great novels. Upon finishing them, your inner book critic rates them each four out of five stars. However, prior to reading them, you expected the first one to rate three stars and the second a perfect five. Question: did you experience the same level of satisfaction from both books? Interestingly enough, probably not!

If you’re like most people, you felt more satisfied after the first one. That’s because it turned out better than you expected. In contrast, you were probably a little disappointed with the second one because it wasn’t as great as you thought it would be.

This illustration demonstrates the importance that expectations play in our lives. The gr

eater the expectations, the greater the risk of disappointment. It also explains why it’s so important to keep your promises. After all, if someone promises you something, you’re entitled to expect they’ll deliver on their word.

Some people habitually overpromise and underdeliver (hello politicians!). They promise the moon because they aim to please or inspire.. They say what people want to hear and feed off of their enthusiasm. However, all they do is create false hope when they can’t deliver on their promises. After a few of these incidents, people wise up and sense the manipulation, It’s a surefire reputation buster…

When we don’t keep a promise to someone, it messages that we don’t value or respect them. Rather, we prioritized something else more highly than abiding by our commitment. Lacking follow-through communicates to others that they cannot count on us. This takes a heavy toll on our relationships—personally and professionally. And, it’s probably one of life’s most common sources of frustration and disappointment.

If anything, it pays to underpromise and overdeliver. By doing so, we’ll pleasantly surprise others by exceeding their expectations. (Interestingly, one of the greatest predictors of an outperforming stock is whether its earnings beat Wall Street estimates!) Here are some proven ways to master dependability:

  • Before committing, honestly appraise what you’re realistically able to do and by when.
  • Allow yourself a “fudge factor” – estimate a slightly longer deadline, slightly higher cost, etc. That way, you can provide at least what you’ve promised, if not more.
  • If the project takes a little longer or costs more, you’ll still be able to come close to your original estimate. And if you’re able to deliver sooner or under your original estimate, you’ll look like a hero!
  • If something unexpected threatens your ability to keep your promise, let your manager (or parent!) know as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the deadline to spill the bad news!

Do yourself and others a big favor. Only promise what you can deliver. It’s a true sign of integrity, and it will greatly benefit you in your professional, academic, and personal lives!

How have others reacted when you failed to deliver on your promises? It’s one of our greatest learning lessons, isn’t it? How are you training the children in your life to be dependable? We’d love to hear from you!

8 Benefits of Understanding Your Teen’s Unique Personality

Parents, how well are your messages getting through to your children? Are they hitting the bull’s eye or missing the entire dart board? Here are some strategies to help you connect with your kids like never before.

The fact is even our most well-intentioned communications will fall on deaf ears unless we have a strong relationship based on mutual understanding. Since every child is unique (ours are polar opposites!), we need to relate to them personally and individually. This involves customizing our communications to their unique personality and behavioral style. Unfortunately, there’s no surefire “one size fits all” approach.

A good relationship between any two people, parent-child or otherwise, rests on a platform of mutual respect and valuing each other’s unique qualities. Just because we’re shooting for the same objectives with our teens (e.g., solid leadership foundation, strong character, self confidence), doesn’t necessarily mean we should use the same communication style for each of them. Teens vary remarkably in their needs, reactions, communications, and behavioral styles. This impacts how they relate to us and to the world around them.

The point is, we must be students of our children’s temperaments and personalities in order to accomplish our objectives. One helpful tool for you to consider is the DISC personality test which is available free at It offers great insights on behavioral style for the entire family. Your children will understand you better, too!

By understanding how your children are wired AND how their personalities interact with yours, you can accomplish these important relationship goals:

  1. identify what motivates (and discourages) them
  2. appreciate their strengths and be empathetic toward their challenges
  3. communicate in such a way that they receive your messages in the manner intended
  4. respond to them in such a way that they feel safe, heard, and understood
  5. refrain from overly imposing your own nature, preferences, and ambitions on them
  6. have realistic expectations of them
  7. respect your differences
  8. develop parenting strategies that work best for you, and ultimately, for them

Take some time to reflect on your interactions with your children—when do they go especially well and when do you butt heads? Is your teen more laid back or high energy? People or task oriented? Disciplined or carefree? Emotional or logical? Now, think about your own unique personality. How is it different from your children’s, and in what ways is it similar? Consider your differences and similarities and allow it to inform your communication style. You’ll hit the bull’s eye that much more.

How is your communication with your teen? Do you have a strong understanding of their unique personality? Do you parent your children differently? Feel free to share your own experiences, tips, and lessons learned with us!

Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes; Don’t Blame Others!

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible
for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

~Theodore Roosevelt

 When we experience a personal disappointment, it’s usually because we made an innocent mistake or our effort simply fell short. Is one worse than another? Well, to my way of thinking, a mistake is a little more serious because it’s an error, whereas a shortfall may have occurred despite our best effort. (After all, we can’t always win.)

Since we’re all human, mistakes and shortfalls are part of life. While no one keeps track, they number well into the thousands during our lifetime. That being the case, one has to wonder why it’s so difficult for people to admit their mistakes and accept responsibility.

Is it because the words “I’m sorry” don’t come easily? In such cases, it’s sometimes easier (and feels less shameful) to blame others and make excuses.

Is there a better way to handle our mistakes?

People who are prone to blame are actually reflecting their own insecurities. Implicitly, they assume their relationships can’t withstand an acknowledgement of a mistake or shortfall. However, it’s a false assumption, especially since people appreciate it when someone admits a mistake and asks for forgiveness.

When you make a mistake or your best efforts fall short of the goal, you can do one of two things:

  1. You can TAKE responsibility, apologize if appropriate, and do what you can to make things right.
  2. You can DODGE responsibility, blame someone else (or blame circumstances), and walk away from the situation – leaving others with the problem you created.

Choice #1 one will likely gain you the respect of your family, peers, and colleagues and help you learn from your mistake. Choice #2, on the other hand, will cause damage to your reputation and deprive you of a valuable opportunity for personal growth.

Why not exercise a little humility and take the high road? Learn to swallow your pride and admit it when you’ve fallen short. You’ll be respected and admired by others when you do… and you might be surprised by the grace they extend to you in return!

Do you find it difficult to admit your mistakes and accept that you aren’t perfect?

Are you harder on yourself than others would be if you took responsibility for your shortcomings? Share your thoughts and comments with our online community by commenting below; we’d love to hear your perspective!