Wake-Up Call: Teens too stressed about school and future!

When I think back on my middle school and high school days, the future was out there and getting into college on our minds as high school days marched on, but it wasn’t the stress and all consuming mission it is for today’s teens. Somewhere along the line, the exploration of life that comes with being a teen has been replaced with a mission to “get on” with life. Unless I didn’t get the memo that teens are now truly small adults, shouldn’t they get to live out the remainder of their childhoods and reap the benefits that a full childhood has for a developing person? Given their all getting short changed on that front, are we really shocked that they are so stressed out?

A survey this past spring by the Columbia public schools in Columbia, Missouri is eye-opening. Here are the highlights:

  • 3/4 of students are stressed about school
  • 50% of teens cite the future as their top concern
  • Other top stressors cited included family issues, relationships, and time management

Other observations from the survey:

  • All socioeconomic groups are represented
  • Junior high kids are relying on energy drinks and coffee
  • These students are below the average for drug and alcohol use nationwide

The kicker of this entire situation, however, is this quote from the survey’s summary article (noted above):

Heather Harlan, a prevention specialist for Phoenix Programs, said the results of the assessment indicate there is a growing disconnect between adults and adolescents. “Young people would like to spend more positive time with their parents,” Harlan said.

These results could have been from any town in the United States. Teens everywhere are reporting similar stressors and have been for a while now.  In light of discussions of “helicopter parents”, and “Tiger Moms”, it’s time we take a step back and realize that what’s happening in the world of teens isn’t working. Our job as parents isn’t to groom them for some future we think is best for them and push them to achieve in a way that’s super human.

We ended up doing ok with similar concerns by having mentors, teachers and parents who helped us see that the blank slate of a futures would be just fine as we figured out over time what our dreams were meant to be. Now it’s our turn to do the same for our kids. Remember, we lived our childhoods. We found our dreams. And, most of us bucked our parents every step of the way when they tried to intervene and force their wills on us (remember those days??).  Let’s not deprive or teens of any of their own teenage ride – even the bucking their parents part!

So, as another school year begins, let’s empower our kids as they become teens to find their own paths and dreams. Their futures will be just fine once they get there.

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