How to De-Stress and Motivate Your Teen

What does your teen do to motivate themselves and reduce their level of stress?

Your teen has responsibilities at home and at school. You know that keeping their work ethic and motivation high will help them have less stress in the long run. However, trying to get your teen to get things done puts you in a power struggle with them. This makes it difficult to resolve a stressful interaction.

Parents who want their teens to be motivated often inadvertently raise their teen’s stress level. Excess stress is connected to feeling pressured, powerless, hopeless, or helpless. Cycles of negative stress contribute to anxiety and depression in teenagers, which many believe is at an all-time high!

So, how do you make a teen get things done while also helping them stress less? Here are the dos and don’ts to reduce stress and help your teen stay motivated.

Stress and the “Shoulds” Don’t Motivate Your Teen

Adults try to use stress as a motivator for a teen. Teenagers also try to motivate themselves by increasing stress. It’s logical to an extent, because stress can spark action. However, it only works well a percentage of the time.

Reminding your teen of what will go wrong if they don’t do their homework, for example, is not an effective motivator in the long-term because it sets up a cycle of avoidance and frantic work. There are other dangerous costs associated with trying to increase stress in order to increase motivation, including self-doubt, burnout, anxiety, and depression. 

One of the big mistakes that schools and adults often make with the best of intentions is trying to motivate a teen by explaining or instructing them on what they “should” do. “Should” is a dangerous and ultimately ineffective motivator, as it actually disconnects us from our internal motivation as we try to link to some abstract external expectation.

By replacing “should” with “want,” we create a more direct path toward a goal. Seeking more of what brings joy and fulfillment is a more effective motivator than fear of what we don’t want to happen or the idea of what “should” happen – every time. There is lower risk for burn out and much greater long-term benefits.

This can apply in situations both large and small. For example, say each of these sentences aloud and notice the difference in how they feel: “I should call my friend” vs. “I want to call my friend.” Which do you feel inspires you more to take action?

The #1 Tool to Increase Motivation: Finding the Joy

Doing and experiencing things that bring joy to your teen invigorates them to create and succeed. A teen’s brain is growing and adapting more rapidly than an adults, which is an opportunity for change and growth. Valuing joy in life often enough will be a shield against feeling stress and motivate your teen to keep finding more joy.

Seeking joy does not mean being happy all the time or ignoring problems. It is a trackable and functional way of training your teen’s brain to be better at problem solving, connecting to what matters to them, and keeping negativity out of relationships.

Joy is a combination of pride, appreciation and excitement. Your teen will not these things all the time or all at once, but feeling these more often will create a positive and productive life. Plus, finding the joy can also help you protect your relationship with your teen through all the ups and downs of this growing up and launching process. 

You can’t afford to have your teen become a young adult stuck doing a job that’s not really for them. You must help your teen connect to a track that is truly meaningful to them in order to motivate them. This type of teen is more appealing to colleges and on job applications, too! 

Finding Your Teen’s Joy

First, Notice That They Are Already Showing You

What comes to mind when you think about what brings joy to your teen and makes them unique?

Make sure that you allow and encourage them to prioritize these things  in how they spend their time. Notice the skills your teen already possesses so that in time they can be harnessed.

When your teen does something they like or excel at, they are able to access strengths and skills such as problem solving, integrity, focus, patience, and humor.

Second, Use The Internal and External Experiences

One of the many ways that you can harness this developmental time for your teen is to encourage them to tap into both external experiences and internal beliefs that bring joy.

Having external experiences and connecting to internal beliefs on a regular basis will keep your teen from slipping into stress because it is an opportunity to release pressure, feel powerful and meaningful, give hope, and offer help to self or others in a way that means something to your teen.

An example of an external experience starts with identifying what your teen likes doing, as discussed above. Teens need positive recognition from peers, mentors, and other adults. This keeps them out of negative thinking, unhealthy stress and trouble in general, because they won’t have to seek out unhealthy experiences to feel acknowledged or noticed.

Connecting your teen to joy internally is connecting them to the values that are important to them now. Does your teen feel joy when they feel that their help is needed? It may be important to them to serve others. Getting involved in a social issue also connects them with their developing values, bringing more joy and fulfillment.

Maybe you’re not sure what your teen’s values are, and that’s ok. Write down a few guesses and start observing your teen in this way. Check to identify what hints at what their values are, rather than only looking at their behavior on the surface.

If stress is a factor in your teen’s life, try these 3 Anxiety Reduction Tools.

Third, Use Your Connection With Your Teen

The most lasting and powerful want to enlist joy for motivation and stress reduction is using it to keep you and your teen connected. Joy will connect your teen to the people in their life that will be the most influential in their life, and you are one of those people.

Your relationship with your teen is a powerful tool. Find moments to enjoy with your teen now. Don’t want until later and lose a chance to enjoy your teen exactly as who they are in this moment. These moments will keep the stress low during the school year. You can help keep your teen maintain habits that keep them happy and motivated.

Bottom Line

Motivate your teen with the pursuit of true interests. Value rewarding experiences and encourage their healthy connections with others. They will face the stressful moments in life wisely if they tune-in to their own needs and desires.

If your teen isn’t connecting with interests or has stress that impedes completing tasks, find a specializing therapist now. Contact me at your convenience! I offer a free phone consultation.
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