Returning to school can be a stressful time, especially for teens. Many teens face stress from the new demands of school, puberty, changing relationships, family responsibilities and safety issues in their neighborhoods. However, teen stress is not always recognized by adults.
The Center for Adolescent Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has developed a free resource guide “Confronting Teen Stress: Meeting the Challenge in Baltimore City,” to help parents, teachers and youth-service providers identify stress in children and discuss healthy ways to cope with it. The guide is unique because it was developed in collaboration with community members who work with young people. It also includes material developed by teens for teens.
“Teen stress is an important, yet often overlooked, health issue,” said Anita Chandra, co-author of the guide and a graduate student in the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Population and Family Health Sciences. “The way in which teens cope with stress can have significant short- and long-term consequences on their physical and emotional health,” she added.
The resource guide grew out of a research project conducted by Chandra and Ameena Batada, co-author of the guide and fellow graduate student at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study, entitled “Shifting the Lens: A Focus on Stress and Coping among East Baltimore African-American Adolescents,” is one of only a few to examine African-American teens’ perceptions of stress. Many previous studies have focused on environmental factors, such as drugs and crime, as sources of stress for teens living in urban communities. The “Shifting the Lens” study showed that teens in Baltimore City face some of the same stressors as young people living in suburban and rural communities, including stress from school and relationships with peers. Nearly 78 percent of the teens who participated in the study cited school work as the most frequently experienced sources of stress in their lives. Sixty-eight percent cited parents as a source of stress. The study also indicated that boys tend to use avoidance and distraction to cope with stress, while girls tend to seek support from others. The research led to the development of the “Focus on Teens” video, which was produced by teens to inform parents and other adults about the issues of teen stress.
“Our research showed that teens need help with stress management. ‘Confronting Teen Stress’ provides practical ways adults can help,” said Batada.
Chandra and Batada collaborated with a group of community members to develop “Confronting Teen Stress.” The group included parents, high school teachers, youth organization directors and teens who offered insight into the design and content of the guide. Their suggestions included ideas for the teen stress reduction activities and resources. The guide was also reviewed by members of the Center for Adolescent Health’s staff and Community Advisory Board.
The guide was supported by the Center for Adolescent Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, which is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Prevention Research Center; the Shapiro Family Foundation and the Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund.