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Dealing with Family Stress and its Effects on Troubled Youth During the Holidays

Dealing with Family Stress and its Effects on Troubled Youth During the Holidays

The holidays carry mixed emotions for troubled youth and their families. While teens often enjoy the celebrations during this time of year, they feel the extra burden of family stress as well. In addition, the hectic pace presents its own challenges as families try to cram lots of activities into an already busy schedule. You can help your teen deal with family stress in the following ways.


While you will have a number of plans, you should prioritize them so that you accomplish what you want to finish. Talk to your teen about what he or she wants to do and narrow down your choices to one or two events each week that you have to attend. Then, list one or two optional events. Fill in with less stressful activities, such as baking, shopping and wrapping, that you can juggle according to your schedule.

Keep Expectations Real

If you overextend yourself, your teen will likely feel the pressure. Relax! You don’t have to do everything. In some cases, seasonal events begin in November and continue through mid-January. If possible, attend these events as early in the season as possible or after the rush of Christmas and New Year’s.


Help your teen maintain a healthy balance amidst the busy pace.

  1. Sleep – Teens need plenty of sleep, so encourage them to get extra rest

  2. Exercise – Work out with your teen to help boost their energy.

  3. Eat healthy meals – The holiday season is loaded with rich foods that can throw your teen’s body off kilter. Proper nutrition will help them keep up their strength.

Establish Fun Traditions

These can be something as small as baking together, how you open presents or watching a favorite movie. You might need to eliminate traditions that take too long or that drain your energy.

Stay Organized

With an extra busy schedule, help your teen stay on track. Keep a list, whether on paper or electronic.

Look at the Needs of Others

Give to others. Talk with your teen about various options, such as donating time at a homeless shelter, serving at a food bank, buying gifts for an underprivileged family or giving a cash donation to a favorite charity.

Focus on the Meaning of the Season

Whether or not you are celebrating for religious reasons, look for the meaning of the season. Reach out to family and friends, letting them know that you care.

Causes of Holiday Stress

The holidays can create stress for troubled teens for various reasons, including the following

  1. Past holidays – Remembering past holidays can bring up buried stress, especially if the memories are painful for the teen.

  2. Family members with poor boundaries – Unhealthy relatives can add extra pressure to teens. Help him or her learn to enforce safe boundaries.

  3. Changes – A death, a divorce, a move — any of these can upset a teen, creating more stress.

  4. Difficulty coping – Lowered immunity, increased stress, the hectic pace of the season and more wear out a teen.

  5. A history of conflict – If your teen has a history of conflict with someone, the holidays might make it worse. They might need to avoid that person to lessen their stress.

  6. Overextending yourself – Decide on limits and stick to them in order to reduce stress.

The greatest priorities of the season are to keep your focus on your family and on supporting each other. Remind your teen that the most important part of the holidays is the people around you. This will help you and your teen enjoy a less stressful holiday in the long run.

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