On any given day, there are many high school students who would answer “yes” to the question of whether or not they are feeling overwhelmed. It may be a freshman adjusting to the rigors of high school work, or a sophomore struggling to balance school and sports.
For juniors and seniors, though, the stress can be particularly high. Seniors must contend with fall college application deadlines, of course. And juniors are feeling it too, as they have likely been hearing how their junior year grades will be quite important to colleges when they apply in one short year.
What do you do if your child seems to be buried in schoolwork and extracurricular commitments? Here are some ideas…
- Agree on priorities. Look at your child’s schedule and decide together if anything can be cut back, even temporarily, to let them get caught up on school work or college applications. Your child’s mental health needs to come first, even if that means passing on a volunteer opportunity or cutting down hours at an after-school job.
- Don’t ask for perfection. It is important to relay to our kids that we don’t expect them to be perfect – and neither do most colleges. There are times when fun must be put on hold to study for a test or complete a college essay, but I encourage all teens to make sure they have some time to relax each week. They will only have this high school experience once.
There are of course some students that are doing quite well at the fun piece and need encouragement to step up the academic and extracurricular activities!
- Develop a routine. Some students could handle their school work and extracurricular activities more easily if they had stronger time management, better organizational skills and a routine / study area that limited distractions. This should be addressed in the high school years as these issues will likely follow them to college. An academic coach to address those areas or a content tutor can often make a big difference.
- Be alert to changes. It is important to be on the lookout for significant changes regarding your teen’s mental health. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a school counselor or your health practitioner if you are concerned. As I said, most teens feel overwhelmed periodically, but it should not be ongoing.
- Don’t delay getting started. As far as those college applications, not all students will be ready to apply in the fall and that is fine. But students usually regret it if they are not doing regular work on their applications by now. These take time and waiting until their schedule lightens up to get started isn’t usually the best plan.
If your student is having trouble getting started or has lost momentum, try talking with them about setting up a daily schedule where they will work on their applications for 45 minutes per day (some days won’t work out but then there may be more time to spend on a weekend).
Overall, realize that your teen is feeling the pressure of this time in life and may be hearing about more accomplished peers and their future plans. As parents, we can help by giving support, offering encouragement and making sure our child hears loud and clear that we value them for who they are as a person, regardless of their GPA or standardized test scores.