This time of year, juniors and seniors with plans to attend college are usually feeling some pressure. They know they must do well in school and should participate in extracurricular activities and jobs/internships.
There have been fewer opportunities because of COVID over the past year, and many students feel that everything must be fit in now – and done well. This can often lead to students feeling overwhelmed.
Yes, some stress is helpful, in that it provides motivation to get things done, both in the short- and longer-term. But too much stress (and the anxiety that comes from it) can cause teens to shut down, not integrate new learning, and fail to work productively, even when they have set aside time to complete their homework or college essays. That can lead to a vicious cycle that produces more anxiety.
So, it is important to ask your teen on a regular basis how she is doing. This may be best done at a time you set aside to only concentrate on your child. You may find they are most likely to talk honestly during an enjoyable activity you do together – a walk, shooting baskets in the driveway, cooking, playing ping pong or pool, etc. However you decide to check in, make sure they get the message that you are there to support them and you will be happy with whatever path they choose to take as they move toward adulthood.
Teens often benefit at this point in their lives from also talking with someone other than a parent. For example, you may want to set up a therapist appointment so they have someone else to connect with. Normalize this as a healthy practice that many teens (and adults!) use to keep feeling their best, and not just something that occurs when things are going badly. There are also times when an older sibling, cousin, aunt, etc., can be helpful to check in with your teen.
Here are some additional resources that you and your teens may find helpful:
- Teen Mental Health. This website provides learning tools on a variety of mental illnesses, videos, and resources for teens.
- Go Ask Alice! This website contains a large database of questions about a variety of concerns surrounding emotional health and is geared toward young adults.
- Reach Out. This website provides information on specific mental health disorders, resources to help teens make safe plans when feeling suicidal, and tips on relaxation.
Overall, do your best to recognize that teens – like everyone else – may be feeling more stress than usual at the moment. Do your best to support and reassure them.