A recent article in the New York Times by Lisa Damour (2017) discussed coping strategies of teenagers. Along with feedback from practicing psychologists, Damour provided some interesting descriptors of coping mechanisms that may be criticized or possibly overlooked by adults. The author notes that it is common for teenagers to reread childhood books or re-watch television shows or movies that they used to love when younger to cope with stress. These simple tasks have been shown to lift spirits and improve a depressed mood. Here the revisiting of youthful activities or completing simple or repetitive tasks may help teenagers distract themselves from expectations or personal demands.
The article suggests that teens who use approach coping mechanisms, such as problem solving, are more satisfied with their lives compared to teens that use avoidance coping strategies (e.g., ignoring or worrying). Parents can help monitor if distractions or coping strategies are adaptive or interfering with one’s responsibilities. Identifying the source of stress as either something that can be changed or something that is out of one’s control is also necessary and may influence the type of coping skills that could be useful. Also the author highlights that some situations may be beyond a child’s capacity to handle or manage without support (e.g., death, trauma); therefore professional support may be beneficial. In short, parents may find it helpful to recognize that coping mechanisms are personal, and though these activities may appear rudimentary, their effects have shown to have a positive effect on how teens manage stress.
Damour, L. (2017). When a teenager’s coping mechanisms is SpongeBob. Retrieved from https://nyti.ms/2kNpzqJ
Dannie Harris, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern