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What’s Stressing Out Your Teen

If you’re like most parents, you are familiar with your teen’s day-to-day stressors and coping styles. Situations that provoke stress in one teen may not affect another. Normal pressures and emotional changes that come with growing up, while uncomfortable for families, can serve as learning opportunities and promote positive change.

Sources of Stress

In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association for their Stress in America survey, teens reported their top three sources of stress:

  • Academic stress (83%)
  • Getting into college/Deciding what to do after graduation (69%)
  • Financial concerns for their family (65%)

In a separate and broader survey conducted by After School, a social network for teens, results seemed in line with what parents see from a “typical teen.”

  • Relationships (27%)
  • Teachers (25%)
  • Parents (13%)
  • College (9%)
  • Friends (4%)

Talking about these expected stressors with your teen can help them learn to manage garden-variety stress effectively. Being a role model can also go a long way in teaching resiliency.

Some sources of stress may tie more directly to your teen’s individual challenges. Be conscious of how your teen reacts to:

  • Puberty and other physical changes to their body.
  • Peer pressure (pressure to fit in with their group’s looks, fashion, and activities such as smoking).
  • Changes in home life (moving, new school, new sibling, family member moves in).
  • World events (a more common stressor in today’s teens than prior generations).


Stress & Depression

For some teens, too much stress and worry can turn into anxiety and/or depression. Even typical teenage sources of stress can be triggers for persistent anxiety that interfere with your teen’s life. Other times, these issues can lead to more serious problems. Be alert for:

  • Body image issues (dieting, eating disorder, poor self-esteem).
  • Unhealthy competition or parental pressure to perform (academics, sports, comparisons with a sibling).
  • Emotional and physical dangers from romantic relationships (sexual experimentation, relationships with adults, birth control issues).
  • Bullying or cyber bullying.
  • Traumatic events (death of a family member or friend, serious health problems, violence, dating abuse).


What can you do?

Above all, stay connected to your teen — even when they don’t want you to. Remember that you were once their age, so listen and be empathetic.


If you think your teen may need professional help to manage unusual stress or anxiety, contact your doctor or a mental health provider. UPMC Health Plan members can call 1-888-777-8754 for information about mental health providers and other resources to help your teen.

Apps for teen stress and anxiety

Colorfy: Coloring Book & ArtsHeadspace: Meditation
Mindfulness for Children Free Meditation for kids
Moodtrack Social Diary
Relax Melodies: Sleep Sounds, White Noise & Fan 4
Stop, Breathe & Think
*Available through the Apple App Store



“Stress in America 2013: Are Teens Adopting Adults’ Stress Habits?”, 2013, 2018