How Do I Help My Teen Feel Less Overwhelmed?

When you are a parent of a teen or adolescent in high school, the end of the year can be a stressful time for multiple reasons. As a parent, you might notice that your child, or adolescent, is struggling to juggle college applications, school work, after school activities, and family time. This might be the perfect time to have your child seek out a teen therapist.

The holidays do not make it easier for an adolescent to be focused on school work and this is usually a time when grades start to slip and tensions run high at home. Teens will usually take all of their frustrations and feelings of being overwhelmed out on family members at home. They can take it out on a sibling, pet, or parent.

                Why do teens become mad at their parents for no reason?

When it seems your teen is yelling at you for no reason, it could be that they are projecting their feelings onto you. Projection is a psychotherapy term that is a theory stating if an adolescent is denying their true thoughts and feelings towards something, they then unconsciously displace those feelings towards someone else. An example with your teen could be that they are feeling overwhelmed by school, doing well in a sports game coming up, studying for the SAT’s, and they just got into a fight with their best friend.

This teen might feel frustrated and angry inside. When the teen comes home at night and the dinner is not exactly what they want to eat, then that teen might show anger towards the parent who cooked the meal. Ultimately, this adolescent is not necessarily angry about the food or even the parent. But it is the anger and agitation kept inside that then explodes out onto the parent. One way mental health counseling could help a teen who is feeling overwhelmed is to notice these internal feelings first and address where they are coming from. So then they will not “explode” out onto others.

                There are so many things that kids have to focus on these days- how do I help counsel my teen as a parent?

The best way you can help counsel your child is to help them prioritize. If your teen is willing, sit down together and map out what they have to do. Start by creating a list of what they need to get done in the next MONTH. An example of a senior year student might be the following:

  • Study for AP Bio Exam

  • Complete Homework on time

  • Study for math final

  • Go to history class extra help before school once a week

  • Attend basketball practice Monday, Wednesday, Friday after school

  • Apply to colleges with financial aid by the earlier admission date

  • Spend time hanging out with friends

  • Attend family holiday party

You would then look at this bulleted list together and number them from 1-8- with 1 being what you MUST get done as soon as possible and 8 being what you can get away with pushing off until next month. After you prioritize your list, you then want to look at a physical calendar of the next month. You can either draw out a simple calendar on a piece of paper or print a fancy free one off a google search. During my own therapy sessions with adolescents, I like to create our own calendar and color code the tasks. The next step is to fill in all of the tasks you need to complete.

Once you finish filling in your calendar, then you want to make sure it looks REALISTIC. My priority as a child psychotherapist is to make sure my teens set realistic goals and expectations so that they are able to reach them and feel great when they do! I advise you help your child create a realistic calendar. This means, if December 18th shows “study for AP Bio Exam, Attend basketball practice, and Work on college application due December 20th” then this is not realistic. That is when your teen becomes overwhelmed, angry, agitated, and will most likely not do well on any of these tasks.

Next, you want to go back to your numbered prioritized list and get rid of 1-2 tasks that are higher numbers and are less of a priority. See if you can move these tasks onto days that are less busy. Also, always make sure to schedule in and prioritize FUN ACTION ITEMS! This includes spending time with friends, Netflix & Chill’ing, family time, etc. When someone is so busy, it is easy to forget to schedule in time to relax and take breaks. Self-care is an extremely important psychotherapy practice that is important for your child’s mental health. (Look out for a future self-care blog for your teens! You can subscribe to the email list at the bottom of the page.)

                What should I do if my teen does not want to sit down with me?

I hear you. It is likely that your teen might not be interested in doing any of this. That is when you enlist help!

  1. You can help by buying your teen a calendar or an organizer. There are some fancy organizers and planners out there that help you prioritize your goals and help you track your tasks. This might be a great holiday gift for you teen.
  2. Another thing you can do is talk to your child’s school counselor. You can even share this article with the school counselor to let them know exactly what your teen is struggling with and needs help with! The counselor can then sit with your teen and help them organize what to do next so that their tasks do not seem so overwhelming.
  3. Another option is to seek a psychotherapist that specializes in adolescent therapy in your area. You always want to find a counselor who specializes working primarily with teens. Think of it like you wouldn’t go see an ENT (Ears, Nose, Throat) doctor if you were having pain in your foot. A psychotherapist who specializes in helping adolescents is the best person to have on your team. They will listen to your needs as a parent and then hear what your child needs are as well. Then this will be implemented into treatment goals to focus on so that your teen can do better in school and all the other components of their busy life.

There are many other ways to help your teen feel less overwhelmed by the multiple tasks on their plate. Feel free to take a counselor helping role and just sit down and listen to your child. And the most important part is that you validate that their stress and struggles are real. You do not need to solve all of their problems right there. It can be reassuring to your child that you understand that their struggle is real and that they are not alone.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to reach out to me below and we can discuss other ways to help your teen feel less stressed! I'd love to chat with you more about this if it is something you are experiencing as a parent. Fill out the contact information form below and I will be in touch within 24 business hours. 


Courtney Glashow, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Jersey City, New Jersey. She specializes in children and adolescent issues, and young adult counseling. For more information about Courtney's work click here.

Name *