Homework. AP classes. Part-time job. ACT/SAT prep. Friends. Study groups. Extracurriculars. Exercise. Campus visits. Dating. GPA. Family. Application essays. Social life. All in a day’s work for your average American teen! Isn’t it great? Today’s options are more varied than ever, and although the competition is hotter - your teen can handle it. Right? Maybe not.
Teens today are lucky to have so many options. They have more classes from which to choose, more resources to prepare them for post-graduate life, and enough extracurricular options to keep them busy 24/7. But that’s part of the problem - many of them ARE busy 24/7, and it isn’t helping. Teens are reporting higher levels of stress today than in the past, and much of that is due to the pressure they feel to succeed in school and extracurriculars during their adolescent years. And looking at their schedules it’s hard to blame them.
Are YOU the problem?
Often parents assert that the stress is good for their teen, because the results will be worth it. They’ll get that stellar GPA which will result in an acceptance letter to the college of their choice. That college will provide a degree which will lead to an amazing job offer. From there, their life is set! It just means a lot of work and stress and extra responsibility right now. Well, unfortunately, that extra work and stress and responsibility may be sabotaging a healthy future.
Teens are feeling academic pressure from multiple sources. Of course parents are one - you may be checking their grades, imposing consequences for good/bad scores, nagging them to complete their homework, or pushing them to take AP or college credit courses on top of their regular schedule. It’s important to remember that they are also getting pressure from their teachers, counselors, coaches, and even their own friends (competition and “keeping up” is incredibly powerful among teen peer groups). For far too many teens this pressure works them into a frenzy and can even lead to anxiety, failure, and collapse.
Over-scheduling and pushing too hard has been shown to lead some teens into rebellion, drugs and alcohol use, questionable peer groups, and resistance. So when you’re urging your teen to study or join yet another club, you may actually be damaging their future. Instead, the steps to help them succeed may seem a little counter-intuitive, but they work.
How to Help them Succeed in School
- Unschedule. Allow your teen plenty of free time during the week to rest, chill, and explore options.
- Recreation time. Along with unscheduled time, make sure your teen has plenty of opportunities for sleep, vacation, and fun. Take them to movies, let them sleep in on weekends, and take family trips whenever possible.
- Talk about stuff other than achievements. Instead of asking about the math test, ask them what they like about math. Instead of pressing them about college choices, ask them what they hope for in a college roommate. Talking casually about non-pressure situations helps them destress and focus on what truly matters.
If your teen is still struggling in school or rebelling against your efforts to help them succeed, more intense academic and emotional intervention may be needed. Turn to professionals at a therapeutic boarding school before it is too late. There is still time to salvage your teen’s academic and successful future.