How to help your tweens and teens with stress reduction
Part 4 in the Ending Negativity Series
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Are your tweens and teens stressed out? Who isn’t, these days? I’ve got some useful strategies to help you and your kids negotiate these stressful years. Your kids need to reduce their stress and I have calming activities for your tweens and teens. I want to help you help them!
Click here to read Part 1: How to Help Your Tween & Teen Let Go of Negative Thinking
In the other articles in my Ending Negativity series, I went over lots of strategies for helping your kids learn to be less negative and strategies for you as a parent to handle their bad moods. Let me give you a quick review:
Strategies for Stress Reduction for Tweens & Teens
- Identify and address problems: Help your kids recognize their thoughts and beliefs about their problems. They need to learn how to de-catastrophize their issues. See article 1 and read the part about the ABC technique.
- Let some things go: Are your kids overscheduled? Do they treat everything like it’s the first priority? Help them prioritize, and maybe they need to back out of some activities. See article 2.
- Manage screens and social media: Studies show that tween’s brains are affected by screentime and social media. Read this article to get a handle on it.
- Eat well: Your kids brains are made out of what they eat. If their nutrition is poor, they can experience anxiety, depression, insomnia, loss of focus, and more. I touched on this in article 2. If your kid needs some yummy brain food, try my chocolate smoothie and my other recipes. They need less sugar and simple carbs, and more healthy fats and protein! Brains are mostly fat, and your kids’ brains are developing. So they need lots of good fat in their diet – coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, and grass-fed butter are all good choices. Yum! Also, beware of caffeine. Make sure your teen knows that caffeine is a stimulant and can amp up anxiety.
- Sleep well: Tweens and teens need about 9 hours of sleep per night, and some need even more. Most kids are not getting that much. Your brain needs enough rest every night. If your kids are not getting enough rest, it can be reflected in their mood.
- Exercise: Exercise is part of what our bodies are meant to do! Encourage your kids to get some exercise every day. Movement during the day contributes to better sleep at night and better moods during the day.
- Release Emotional Tension: That’s what this article is about! Read on!
What is Emotional Tension?
Stress! That jaw-clenching, grumpiness-yelling, overall surliness that tweens and teens have (and don’t we all sometimes?)!
Your kids are tense and stressed-out, at least some of the time. They need to release some of that tension in order to start to breathe and move on with their responsibilities. We all need a break sometimes to help us be centered and calm.
Unfortunately, many people try to calm themselves by self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. Or they engage in dangerous or risky behaviors to distract themselves from their feelings. Or even worse, they descend into depression and self-harm. Our job as parents includes teaching kids healthy ways to handle stress.
Your tweens and teens need some go-to activities to help them be calm and reduce anxiety. Here is a list of ideas! I’ve included ideas for both younger tweens and older teens, so I hope you can find something that interests your child.
Keep in mind that your tweens and teens might need some time alone. They also might benefit from some one-on-one time with a friend, or one-on-one time with you. Talk to them gently about which of these options they need and help them find the time to make it happen. I’ve provided ideas below that can be done either alone or with someone else.
Ideas for calming activities for tweens and teens
Writing down their thoughts can be really helpful. They can keep a diary about their activities and thoughts, or they could write poetry, stories, or even comic strips if they find that relaxing. This one is a nice basic choice:
This one is silly and has a cover with my kind of humor. It’s plain lined inside:
This one has colored paintings on the pages that you can write over:
And I can’t believe I found these! One is perfect for the tween girl who loves Taylor Swift., the other is great for fans of Stranger Things. I think both are just regular blank journals inside:
And here are some nice pens to make it more fun:
There are lots of journals you can buy that give you writing prompts. A gratitude journal is one way to help one prioritize his or her life. It can become a ritual , either at bedtime or first thing in the morning that can lead to a feeling of grounding and mindfulness. Here are a few intended for different ages – your kids can decide which one seems right for them:
These journals all have writing prompts. If you think your tween or teen would benefit from turning their focus inward and thinking about reducing anxiety or being more mindful, these books might be a good choice. It really depends on your kid – would he or she find journals like these helpful or annoying? If you click on each link you can see examples of what the pages look like.
Art and Crafts
Art and crafts are a fabulous way for people to disconnect from their daily stressors and just focus on “the now.” It’s great mentally to bring your focus in and look at your hands and what is right in front of you. Plus, many of us also benefit from the kinesthetic element of arts and crafts – touching the yarn, holding the paintbrush, etc. can be an effective calming activity, and it will be for your tweens and teens, too!
- Making friendship bracelets
- Drawing or coloring
- Jewelry making
- Other craft ideas
I love this one! Learn the mindless-but-useful art of hand lettering! Looks like a super fun and relaxing activity:
I don’t have any specific books to recommend, but I think reading fiction, in general, is such a nice, relaxing activity! It’s a way to escape the every day and lose your troubles for a while. If your tween or teen is struggling with stress and/or more serious anxiety or depression, I’d advise you to steer them towards books that aren’t too worrisome. There is a lot of juvenile fiction nowadays that attempts to teach social justice, empathy, etc. that certainly has its place, but its place is not stress-reduction. My daughter has been assigned books in middle school in which the characters struggle with eating disorders, bullying, etc. that did not help her reduce anxiety or find restful sleep, which is what we are going for today.
If you are looking for ideas for a tween and your kid has an oddball sense of humor or interest in the strange, these books might be fun: Quirky books for tweens. I’d steer clear of Series of Unfortunate Events for stress reduction. I think the name explains why. If you can help them find some books that are funny and make them laugh, that can be a big help for stress reduction.
Some people find it relaxing to play a game by themselves. Our family has several different games like this. The little ones are also really handy to take on trips.
If your tween or teen is open to having some family time, here are some of our family’s favorites. Playing a game together might not be what you think of as “calm,” in fact, it can get downright raucous! But it is a pleasant release, a chance to laugh and connect with others, and a distraction from our worries – all of which can contribute to less stress. These are all games that aren’t too “thinky” and shouldn’t remind them of school:
- Uno and Phase 10 are both really fun card games. Uno is super easy to learn and works for ages 4-104. It also is a good choice because you can play for 10 minutes or much longer, so it works no matter how long you have. Phase 10 is a little more complicated and takes longer, but it’s so fun and definitely can help you forget your problems!
- Incan Gold is an amusing game we learned from our cousins in Canada this past summer. It’s quick to learn and our tween and teen both enjoy it.
I love jigsaw puzzles! They are one of our family’s favorite ways to relax. They are an activity one can do alone or you can all do it as a family. You can chit chat, put on music, just be silent, or even put on a movie that you’ve enjoyed before. When choosing a puzzle, get one that is appropriate for the puzzler. Pick a well-made brand such as Ravensburger. Start easy and get harder! A tween is old enough to do the most difficult puzzle, but it depends on whether they have practiced before. If you are just starting out, get an easy one like this 200-piece ocean scene:
This cat one is 500 pieces, so a little harder:
And this one of Paris is 1500 pieces!
We love to build Legos in our family. It is a nice, calm activity, and it’s another one that can be done alone or as a pair. Some people may think tweens and teens are too old for Legos, but there are sets available that are intended for adults and can be a calming activity for any age.
These aren’t Legos- they are another high-rated building toy.
It can be very relaxing to have something to fidget with. Here are a few options:
- Magnet toys
- Squishies: My daughter and all her friends were obsessed with squishies in 5th grade. Squishies are foam toys that can be squeezed and then they slowly rise back to their original shape. She would take one along wherever she went to have something to squeeze. There is definitely something calming about it. It’s like an (adorable) stress ball! They come in tons of styles.
This project is something my daughter enjoyed a while back. You can make your own stress balls – so it’s the fun of doing a craft combined with the calming effect of something to squeeze!
- Walking – Going for a walk with you or a friend can be great because it gets your tween outside plus it’s a chance to talk. Or if you have a dog, send you tween out to walk the dog. Contributing to the family can help them feel useful and therefore develop confidence and a sense of purpose.
- Hiking – If there is somewhere nearby that you can commune with nature, take your tween there and escape the bustle of your lives.
- Running – If you like to run, take your tween with you!
- Dancing – Put on some music and dance!
- Biking, skiing, snowboarding, boating, surfing…you get the idea. Whatever your tween or teen likes that is available, make some time for it!
- Yoga – Yoga is one of the best calming activities out there for any age, and it is a great skill for tweens and teens to learn to help them on their lifelong effort to reduce stress and be healthy. There are lots of sources for good yoga instruction. Sign up for a class together, or just watch a yoga video and follow along! Yoga with Adrienne is one of my favorite You-tubers, and she has lots of videos available for free. Why not start with this one that’s designed with teens in mind?
Self-care is a buzz word that you hear a lot lately. I think there is definitely some value to taking care of yourself and enjoying just being in your body. We, as parents, are trying to teach our kids to learn to prioritize their responsibilities. Don’t forget, care of the self is their responsibility, too.
Essential oils are a really useful tool for improving one’s self-care. Hopefully, you already have them in your home and know how to use them. If you do, make sure you are teaching your teens and tweens how to use them, too! Click here to read my article that explains the basics of essential oils and how to get the best ones at wholesale prices.
Here are a few ways that oils can help with stress reduction for tweens and teens:
- Diffusion: A diffuser releases the molecules into the air so that we breathe them in. Some oils have a calming, relaxing effect that can help regulate mood. These include lavender, clary sage, and ylang ylang. Others have an uplifting, energizing effect and can help to improve bad moods such as lime, bergamot, and peppermint. Young Living has some oil blends that are pre-mixed to help support mood. One is called Stress Away, another is Peace & Calm. They both smell lovely.
- Topical: Many essential oils are safe to use on the skin and can have benefits. You can get a roller-ball bottle of Stress Away that is pre-diluted for topical use onto the skin, or you can make one yourself. Then your tween or teen can roll it on their pulse points.
- Aromatherapy jewelry: Your tween or teen can also wear essential oils to have the benefits with them while they are out of the house. A little sniff of a bracelet, for example, can help bring instant calm. I found a craft kit to make their own jewelry (crafting and oils! Very relaxing!) or you can buy some ready-made. Lava beads are often used because they are porous so you can drip the oil in. Or you can use leather jewelry, and the leather will absorb a little oil.
If you don’t have oils already, be cautious about buying a reputable brand. The essential oil industry is not well regulated and there are some scoundrels out there. You need your oils to be high-quality because you and your children will be breathing the molecules into your bodies. It’s very important that they are pure and toxin-free. To learn more about Young Living oils and learn how you can get yours at wholesale prices, click here.
Bubble Baths/Shower Time
Bubble baths have a great reputation for helping one to relax! Chances are your tweens and teen aren’t “into” baths anymore. I would suggest that when they have a little extra time, a bubble bath would be a great calming activity.
Everyone is a really good non-toxic brand that is rated very well on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website. They have a lavender bubble bath that would be a great choice. It is made with real lavender, which is important. Beware of products that claim to be lavender but then have “fragrance” as one of the ingredients – that refers to 1000s of synthetic chemicals, many of which are harmful.
If your teen really just want a shower but is open to the relaxation idea, there are shower steamers available. They work in a similar way to bath bombs. You put them in the shower and when the hot water/steam hits them they release aromatherapy so it’s like showering at the spa.
More Relaxing Self-Care
Face masks can be a calming activity. Tweens and teens can also relax by doing their nails. Both are nice ways to just slow down and focus on the self.
Cuddling up is another way to practice some self-care. Some people feel better when they have a weighted blanket. It helps them feel more centered, or grounded.
This one is recommended for tweens up to 90 lbs:
This one is for larger people and comes in several pretty colors:
Slippers and fuzzy socks
For boys and young men:
For girls and young women:
Another good way to get cozy is to hang out with your pets! If you have a dog or cat, petting or cuddling your pet can help your tween or teen relax.
I hope you have found my ideas helpful! If you did, please pin or share! Do you have more ideas for calming activities for tweens and teens? If so, tell me in the comments!