We all recognize how real stress can be. In today’s pressure-cooker society, youth need to
tap into their strengths, acquire speciﬁc skills to cope, recover from adversity, and be pre-
pared for future challenges. That’s a tall order for all young people but may be particularly
challenging for youth who are exposed to chronic stress or traumatic experiences.
Most risky adolescent behaviors serve at least partly as coping strategies that help youth
manage uncomfortable stressors. These behaviors offer fleeting relief but lead to troubling
patterns that only magnify stress and are in some cases life threatening. If we help youth
develop a range of alternative coping strategies, we will diminish their need to turn to these
worrisome quick ﬁxes.
Developed for all youth-serving professionals, Guiding Adolescents to Use Healthy
Strategies to Manage Stress reviews the basic principles of strength-based communication,
discusses the sources of worry for teens, offers practical approaches for helping youth
understand they can control their reactions and behaviors, and offers us strategies to
de-escalate tension when stressors lead to crises.
(This content focusing on stress is excerpted from a much larger body of work,
Reaching Teens: Strength-Based Communication Strategies to Build Resilience and Support
Healthy Adolescent Development [www.aap.org/reachingteens].)
¢¢ focus on Adolescents?Why
Adolescence is a time of great promise and potential when each young person strives to
answer the fundamental question, “Who am I?” It is the stage when youth are learning to
navigate their environment, imagining what independence may look like, and considering
how they might contribute to the world. It is the time when teens begin to explore intimate
relationships that will hopefully lead to them having healthy and satisfying adult lives.
Although adolescence is a time of inspirational possibility, it is also a stage of potential
peril. Teens struggle to individuate from their parents and discover how they are just
like—and so very different from—them. This can lead to rebellion. Peers take on a pivotal
importance as young people try on different personas and experiment with new behaviors.
For these reasons among others, the greatest threats to adolescents’ lives and well-being
are tightly linked to their behavior.
The Teen Years Are the Time When Healthy and Dangerous Lifelong
Habits Are Formed
Adolescence is often framed as a time of ﬁerce independence when adult guidance is
rejected. In fact, adolescents are hungry for guidance. Although parents are ideally situ-
ated to offer their wisdom and experience, they are also the people from whom youth are
programmed to wrest independence. This means that youth-serving professionals have a
crucial role in guiding teens to make the choices that will position them to thrive now and
into adulthood and in supporting parents to optimize their influence.
¢¢ ur Philosophical framework
There are several core principles drawn largely from the positive youth development and intro
resilience frameworks that guide this work. D
• While we hope youth will avoid risk behaviors, our goal is to prepare them to thrive and Cu
to position them to be fully prepared to lead us into the future.
• Youth have inherent strengths to be recognized and developed, and the best way to
address risk may be to build on these existing strengths.