How can we help our teen manage and reduce school stress? Since 2020 teen anxiety has doubled, helping our troubled teens is a priority.
Middle and high school students are under more stress than ever before. The number of U.S. high school students who experience academic pressure increased by 62 percent over seven years even though performance improved only modestly.
The number of students who spend more than 10 hours per week doing homework rose from 12 percent to 21 percent over three years.
Increasing Concerns About Academic Stress
Some schools are experimenting with turning down the heat on students. A few have taken such measures as eliminating advanced placement classes, reducing the emphasis on textbook learning, and administering fewer tests. However, others worry that such measures are too extreme and will hurt a college-bound student’s chance of competing for spots in the nation’s best colleges.
Many schools and parents are focusing, instead, on giving students the tools for coping with the constant demands of school. This might include more counseling, yoga classes, breathing techniques, or designated homework-free days.
Helping Teenagers Cope with School Stress
All of this increased pressure to perform academically can leave young adults feeling hopeless and parents feeling helpless. However, many experts agree that there are definitive steps parents can take to help their teenagers cope. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for instance, stresses teaching children resilience through such methods building confidence, strengthening family connections, and instilling character.
Here are some specific ways in which parents can help teens become more resilient:
Teaching Organization Skills
Perhaps the only thing more stressful for a student than having to complete homework assignments in several subjects is having to complete the work in an environment full of scattered papers and misplaced supplies. The fact that a child needs special knowledge for advanced mathematics is widely known, but both parents and students often take organization skills for granted.
Just like calculus, the organization is something that has to be learned. Children should be taught as early as elementary school to keep their workspaces and backpacks well-stocked and orderly. However, it is not too late for even the most disorganized teen to learn the basics of organization.
Parents who have not mastered this themselves may face the added challenge of learning along with their teens. Depending on the situation, a teen may need guidance in one or more of the following: removing excess clutter, arranging a desk into a workable space, storing supplies, sorting school papers into folders, or writing organized notes. Some great organization tips can be found in the book Organizing from the Inside Out for Teenagers.
Teaching Time Management Skills
Time Management skills are a subset of organization skills. However, since time is less tangible than papers in a folder, its management can be a little harder to grasp.
Teen stress due to over-scheduling has often been the subject of discussion in parent circles, but the lack of scheduling can sometimes be a source of even greater pressures. Having multiple assignments, projects, and tests in the works with no study plan can lead to several major stressors, including cramming, late assignments, and poor performance.
Parents can help teens to develop the habit of keeping track of all assignments on a calendar, school planner, chart, or computer. They can also stress the importance of making a checklist of tasks to be completed and demonstrate how to quickly prioritize responsibilities.
Showing teens how to form a schedule for long-term projects or daily study plans for tests can prevent work from piling up and leading to stressful late-night cram sessions. In his book Fighting Invisible Tigers: Stress Management for Teens, psychologist Earl Hipp states that learning to set aside time for relaxation is also an important time management skill.
Teaching Relaxation Techniques
The ability to rest seems like something that should be second nature, but many people in today’s busy world simply do not know how to do it. Teaching teens simple breathing or meditation techniques can go a long way to help relieve tense muscles or calm nerves before an oral presentation. Some numerous books and videos describe such simple techniques. Parents can also advise their teens to enroll in a yoga class.
Offering as Much Support as Possible
Comprehensive way parents can help their middle or high school students to relieve stress is to simply offer their full and unwavering support. Understandably, parents want their children to learn independence, but this can be a gradual process as their children build knowledge and self-confidence.
A parent should continue to provide tutoring and emotional support as well as being actively involved in her child’s education well into the adolescent years. Even something as simple as helping a teenager with a regular household chore during final exams can reduce stress.
Contributor: Diane Wong
If you feel you have exhausted your local resources and your teenager is experiencing extreme levels of stress, anxiety or depression – you may want to consider residential therapy. Contact us to learn more about residential treatment.