This may be a parent’s wakeup call. If you have a teenager at home, there’s a very good chance that he or she is dealing with stress. It’s easy for parents to dismiss that their kids are stressed out. They’re young, footloose and fancy-free, without a mortgage, full-time job or family to support. Parents often view teens as living the best time of their lives, but the amount of stress that kids are dealing with today is greater than it was a few years ago, and is even heavier than that of the immediate, previous generation of their parents.
An American Psychological Association survey indicates that teens are even more stressed than adults and that their level of stress is higher during the school year than during the summer months. The survey tells us that 27% of teens are stressed during the school year. Teen stress is less during summer vacation, but the percentage of teens that claim to be stressed is still at 13%, an indication that school isn’t the only reason kids are more stressed than adults. There are other factors at play.
Surveyed teens report that on a 10 point scale, their stress level maxes at nearly 6. This compared to a 5 for adults, proving that teens are more stressed than their parents.
What’s more disturbing is that 30% of teens report being depressed. 31% feel overwhelmed, with 36% so weighed down by stress, that it makes them feel tired. Stress is affecting the eating habits of 23% of teenagers, resulting in skipped meals.
What’s Causing the Stress?
Performance is a dominant requirement for kids in today’ society. Teens are being asked to perform at a higher level than those from a few years ago. Almost from the beginning of their educational career, kids are bombarded with performance issues, the challenge of finding and staying on the right path for college and a career. The pressure begins as early as middle school and in some cases even in elementary school.
Adolescents are also facing the challenges of social interaction. Adulthood is on the horizon and teens are learning to navigate the social parameters associated with growing up and it’s stressful. Making and keeping friends, falling in love and being accepted in social circles are triggers of stress.
Teens don’t view their stress as letting up any time soon but believe it will only get worse over time. 34% percent of the teens surveyed believe their stress will increase within a year’s time.
How You Can Help
Guiding your teen through the stress they are experiencing is imperative. If your teen feels that you understand or are at least trying to understand, they may begin to feel more relaxed. In order to understand what your teen is going through in regards to stress levels, it is important to be aware of what is on their plate, how they are doing in school and social circles and to communicate with your child. Non-judgmental conversation can be both soothing and therapeutic for your teen in dealing with their stress.
Ask your teen about what is going on in their day-to-day and specifically how their daily activities are challenging them and affecting stress levels. Be specific. Don’t shy away from asking difficult questions, those questions to which you might be afraid to hear the answer. Are they sad or depressed? Can they pinpoint the source of their depression? Have they had suicidal thoughts?
It may take multiple and ongoing conversations to get to the bottom of your child’s stress. Don’t give up and seek professional assistance if necessary.
You know your child better than anyone, so if you notice behaviors that signal depression, regardless of what they tell you, keep digging and seek counseling from a doctor that is certified in adolescent counseling. A professional counselor can help your child learn ways to manage their personal stress and to develop solutions to the problems and situations that are stress triggers.
Your child’s pediatrician is also a resource. Stress may be the cause of your teen’s depression, but there may be other chemical factors at play. A thorough examination is warranted when assisting your teen to manage stress that they aren’t managing well on their own.