Today, over a quarter of teens say they experience extreme stress at school. Now, experts are concerned that as stress rises in adolescents, they will be setting themselves up to form bad stress habits at an early age. Stress related behavior includes lack of sleep and exercise, as well as poor eating habits. Experiencing stress for extended periods can lead to depressive thoughts and behaviors as well. Beginning these stress-related habits young could prove dangerous as teens grow.
Often, as parents, we respond to the stress levels of our children by wanting to manage or alleviate their stress. In reality, not all stress is negative. A healthy level of stress can motivate students to learn to manage tasks, prioritize, and get things done. Teens pick up on our cues. How do I react to stress? My teen most likely will begin responding similarly.
As I learn to let go of my desire to micromanage my teen’s academic stress, I learn to see how he responds to the stress of school in his own way. Experts question what academic stress looks like in teens, expressing concern that as attention spans shrink, stress is more related to tasks that are required of the teen but not desired.
The average teen is experiencing extended screen time and decreased exercise time. Exercising and engaging in physical activity are the quickest way to relieve stress. Noticing when our teens are stressed gives us an opportunity as parents to suggest healthy outlets for their stress. And, it gives us the opportunity to encourage our teens to expand their view of what they believe they can accomplish. Our teens are strong and resilient. While stress can certainly be unhealthy in high doses, it can also be useful in motivating our teens to begin practicing good habits rather than bad. Engage with your teen about his or her level of stress. Walk them through their choices in how to respond and react, and take note of how you are reacting to stress in your own life. Your teens are watching for healthy cues and patterns.