Miranda: Stress is a part of our teenage years. We have all had those days, where mom and dad are yelling at you, you’re fighting with your friends and you have homework piled up to your eyes. But how do we deal with it in a healthy way?
One of the best methods is to avoid it if you can. For example, plan ahead and don’t procrastinate. If you can get something done ahead of time, do it. You never know what will come up next. This helps with the stress of homework and extra curricular activities. Some stress we can’t avoid: a breakup, a fight with friends or “drama” at school. When it comes to social stressors, make sure to handle them in the most mature way possible. Avoid talking about people behind their back and creating more of a fuss.
If it keeps building up, stress can be so overwhelming that it can affect your entire life. Parents divorcing, moving away or a death in the family are all huge life changes. It doesn’t matter how much you’re going through, don’t hold it inside. Talk to someone about it. A trusted friend, parents or a family member are all good places to start. Your guidance counselor is there for more than just college tips — he or she can help you manage your stress or just be there to listen. Talking helps you organize your thoughts and plan ways to deal with whatever situation is bothering you.
Dr. Wes: In his classic book “The Hurried Child,” David Elkind suggests that we are adding to our children’s stress by expecting, or imposing, too much on them too soon, forcing them to grow up too fast, as we inadvertently “step-up the assault on childhood” through the media, in schools and at home.
Marilee Jones, former dean of admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, agrees. In fact, she travels the country lecturing parents to lighten up on their college-bound teens. She thinks most of the worrying parents and kids do in high school doesn’t help much down the road. While she’s speaking here about the college admissions process, the same holds true for most other aspects of high school. She concludes her talks with good advice: “It’s not about getting into the right college; it’s about becoming an adult with integrity.”
On top of the increasingly anxious march to adulthood, today’s teens easily become victims of the very abundance of choices they face. There’s so much to do in school and probably too much to do after school, some of it constructive, much of it not. And then there’s the nearly constant flow of media that interconnects kids so perfectly with the world and each other, as to leave them little downtime.
Here are a few suggestions to manage all that stress:
Parents should balance realistic expectations with emotional support. We call this authoritative parenting, and it is by far the most successful kind.
Kids should balance schoolwork, employment and activities with rest and exercise. The sleep habits of the modern teen are worse than when I was 16, and they weren’t great back then.
Chores are nice, but the definition of a functional family is not whether the laundry is done and the cat box is clean. Despite what we might like to think, kids don’t really learn how to do household tasks until they have a household. Then they suddenly come begging for a crash course. In the meantime, giving them charge of personal chores (like doing their own laundry) is the best bet to create natural and logical consequences (dirty clothes) without a lot of hassles or job charts.
A good place to start learning harmony and balance in life is during the tumult of adolescence Miranda so aptly portrays. School, social life, family and the rest of the world all have to coexist for kids to grow up less stressed.
Next week: My roommate’s boyfriend stays over … all the time.