Is Anxiety Getting in the Way of Success?

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.

Important Summer Reading … For Parents!

Here are books on my shelf that I recommend for parents to help their students be ready to live away from home and be successful and happy.

How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success
by Julie Lythcott-Haims

A provocative manifesto that exposes the harms of helicopter parenting and sets forth an alternate philosophy for raising preteens and teens to self-sufficient young adulthood.

In How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims draws on research, on conversations with admissions officers, educators, and employers, and on her own insights as a mother and as a student dean to highlight the ways in which overparenting harms children, their stressed-out parents, and society at large. While empathizing with the parental hopes and, especially, fears that lead to overhelping, Lythcott-Haims offers practical alternative strategies that underline the importance of allowing children to make their own mistakes and develop the resilience, resourcefulness, and inner determination necessary for success.

Relevant to parents of toddlers as well as of twentysomethings–and of special value to parents of teens–this book is a rallying cry for those who wish to ensure that the next generation can take charge of their own lives with competence and confidence.

The Stressed Years of Their Lives: Helping Your Kid Survive and Thrive During Their College Years
By B. Janet Hibbs and Anthony Rostain

From two leading child and adolescent mental health experts comes a guide for the parents of every college and college-bound student who want to know what’s normal mental health and behavior, what’s not, and how to intervene before it’s too late.

“The title says it all…Chock full of practical tools, resources and the wisdom that comes with years of experience, The Stressed Years of their Lives is destined to become a well-thumbed handbook to help families cope with this modern age of anxiety.” —Brigid Schulte, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author of Overwhelmed and director of the Better Life Lab at New America

All parenting is in preparation for letting go. However, the paradox of parenting is that the more we learn about late adolescent development and risk, the more frightened we become for our children, and the more we want to stay involved in their lives. This becomes particularly necessary, and also particularly challenging, in mid- to late adolescence, the years just before and after students head off to college. These years coincide with the emergence of many mood disorders and other mental health issues.

When family psychologist Dr. B. Janet Hibbs’s own son came home from college mired in a dangerous depressive spiral, she turned to Dr. Anthony Rostain. Dr. Rostain has a secret superpower: he understands the arcane rules governing privacy and parental involvement in students’ mental health care on college campuses, the same rules that sometimes hold parents back from getting good care for their kids. Now, these two doctors have combined their expertise to corral the crucial emotional skills and lessons that every parent and student can learn for a successful launch from home to college.

At What Cost?: Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools
by David L. Gleason Psy.D.

Anxiety, depression, and their dangerous manifestations-substance abuse, eating disorders, self-injury and suicide- are increasing student conditions at many competitive high schools. Paradoxically, most of these schools promote themselves as being committed to students’ holistic development in academics, athletics and the arts, and in their personal, social, and emotional growth.

So why are so many students struggling? Dr. Gleason has investigated these concerns in competitive high schools throughout the United States and around the world and has found almost complete unanimity in how educators and parents have responded to his interviews. In sum, these caring and dedicated adults fully admit to overscheduling, overworking and, at times, overwhelming their students and teenaged children. This conflict – adults wanting to educate and parent adolescents in healthy and balanced ways, but simultaneously, overscheduling, overworking and, at times, overwhelming them – is at the heart of this book.

iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us
by Jean M. Twenge PhD

With generational divides wider than ever, parents, educators, and employers have an urgent need to understand today’s rising generation of teens and young adults. Born in the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s and later, iGen is the first generation to spend their entire adolescence in the age of the smartphone. With social media and texting replacing other activities, iGen spends less time with their friends in person—perhaps why they are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

But technology is not the only thing that makes iGen distinct from every generation before them; they are also different in how they spend their time, how they behave, and in their attitudes toward religion, sexuality, and politics. They socialize in completely new ways, reject once sacred social taboos, and want different things from their lives and careers. More than previous generations, they are obsessed with safety, focused on tolerance, and have no patience for inequality. iGen is also growing up more slowly than previous generations: eighteen-year-olds look and act like fifteen-year-olds used to.

As this new group of young people grows into adulthood, we all need to understand them: Friends and family need to look out for them; businesses must figure out how to recruit them and sell to them; colleges and universities must know how to educate and guide them. And members of iGen also need to understand themselves as they communicate with their elders and explain their views to their older peers. Because where iGen goes, so goes our nation—and the world.

Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania
by Frank Bruni

Over the last few decades, Americans have turned college admissions into a terrifying and occasionally devastating process, preceded by test prep, tutors, all sorts of stratagems, all kinds of rankings, and a conviction among too many young people that their futures will be determined, and their worth established by which schools say yes and which say no.

That belief is wrong. It’s cruel. In WHERE YOU GO IS NOT WHO YOU’LL BE, Frank Bruni explains why, giving students and their parents a new perspective on this brutal, deeply flawed competition and a path out of the anxiety that it provokes.

Bruni, a bestselling author and a columnist for the New York Times, shows that the Ivy League has no monopoly on corner offices, governors’ mansions, or the most prestigious academic and scientific grants. Through statistics, surveys, and the stories of hugely successful people who didn’t attend the most exclusive schools, he demonstrates that many kinds of colleges-large public universities, tiny hideaways in the hinterlands-serve as ideal springboards. And he illuminates how to make the most of them. What matters in the end are a student’s efforts in and out of the classroom, not the gleam of his or her diploma.

Where you go isn’t who you’ll be. Americans need to hear that-and this indispensable manifesto says it with eloquence and respect for the real promise of higher education.

Books for parents of students with executive functioning challenges, ADHD, learning disabilities or those who are on the autism spectrum and plan to attend college.

What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew (for parents of kids ages 6-18)
By Dr Sharon Saline

A veteran psychologist presents a proven roadmap to help ADHD kids succeed in school and life.

You’ve read all the expert advice, but despite countless efforts to help your child cope better and stay on track, you’re still struggling with everyday issues like homework, chores, getting to soccer practice on time, and simply getting along without pushback and power struggles.

What if you could work with your child, motivating and engaging them in the process, to create positive change once and for all? In this insightful and practical book, veteran psychologist Sharon Saline shares the words and inner struggles of children and teens living with ADHD—and a blueprint for achieving lasting success by working together. Based on more than 25 years of experience counseling young people and their families, Dr. Saline’s advice and real-world examples reveal how parents can shift the dynamic and truly help kids succeed. Topics include:

* Setting mutual goals that foster cooperation
* Easing academic struggles
* Tackling everyday challenges, from tantrums and backtalk to staying organized, building friendships, and more.

With useful exercises and easy-to-remember techniques, you’ll discover a variety of practical strategies that really work, creating positive change that will last a lifetime.

Your Kid’s Gonna Be Okay: Building the Executive Function Skills Your Child Needs in the Age of Attention
by Michael Delman

Do you do too much for your kid out of fear they will never make it in the world without your oversight? Are you frustrated or worried about your ‘tween, teen, or young adult who seems lazy or unmotivated? Do you see your child unable to reach their potential because they are disorganized, scattered, and can’t manage their time?
In Your Kid’s Gonna Be Okay: Building the Executive Function Skills Your Child Needs in the Age of Attention, Michael Delman tackles the big worries that keep parents awake at night. In a conversational tone informed by deeply-rooted expertise, Delman illustrates how to connect meaningfully with your child and encourage habits that lead to success in school — and in life.

Your Kid’s Gonna Be Okay helps parents understand the critical skills needed for effective self-management and provides specific strategies and tools to help kids become motivated, accountable, and independent. Through engaging stories that illustrate how we all build Executive Function skills, Delman demonstrates how kids can change their habits as they pave their own path toward competence today and confidence in their future. Parents of kids with ADHD or other learning differences – or parents worried about how their child can manage distractions will benefit from Delman’s experience as an educator, an Executive Function coach, and as a parent.

From High School to College – Steps to Success for Students with Disabilities
By Elizabeth Hamblet

College is a different world from high school and the laws, expectations, and culture around disability services and accommodations are different, too. Elizabeth Hamblet, a Columbia University Learning Specialist/Consultant and recognized transition speaker and writer, has written a one-of-a-kind, step-by-step guide that is an essential resource for college-bound students, their families, and the special educators and school counselors who work with them.

This second edition has been updated to include recent research and reflections from college disability services directors, successful college students, transition specialists, relevant subject-area experts, and parents.  The book provides a clear path for preparing students with disabilities for successful transition to college:
From High School to College provides everything students and their families, education teams, and related professionals need to know about the process.

Elizabeth Hamblet  also has a very informative website: https://ldadvisory.com/

Taking Flight: College for Students with Disabilities, Diverse Learners and Their Families
By Perry LaRoque, PhD

Taking Flight provides the essential information students with disabilities will need to be successful in college.
Rather than just focusing on the academic skills needed in college, Taking Flight addresses college as a system that needs to be mastered and the strategies and self-awareness needed to be successful. Thus, it explores topics including:

The concept of disability; Self-expression; The college bureaucracy; Roommate relationships; And having fun!

Perry T. LaRoque explores these topics by using personal stories, humor, frank advice, and years of expertise. Taking Flight addresses the truly relevant topics and issues needed for happiness and success in college and provides readers with not only how to do well in the system, but how to overcome a system not designed for today’s diverse learners.

Avoiding the Summer Slide (and College Prep Work, too!)

Unfortunately, the “Summer Slide” is not a dance. It’s a term used by educators to describe the very real phenomenon of students losing academic ground over the summer as they use their brains less vigorously.

For students who plan to take the SAT or ACT later this summer or in the fall, or who want to start off strong in their classes, the Summer Slide can put them at a disadvantage.

This is likely more important this year after an extended time with virtual learning during COVID. Your child does need time to recharge this summer especially, but things will go more smoothly in the fall with some preparation now.

So here’s an easy remedy: Read!

Encourage your children (of all ages) to read as much as they can. Some may already have assigned reading from school, but reading can also take the form of pleasure novels, magazines, etc. What matters is that they read regularly.

Some students may also benefit from starting up with math or writing tutoring later in the summer to review what they learned last spring and preview what is coming in the fall. Those who struggle with organization and study skills may benefit from work with an academic coach over the summer as well.

For those motivated to work on their own, here are a few ideas/resources:

Khan Academy: You may know that Khan Academy now offers free SAT prep. It’s also a great place for students to work on various topics in math, science, computing, humanities, art, and economics.

Free Rice: Free Rice is a terrific site that also covers a wide range of subjects (math, vocabulary and grammar, sciences, humanities, geography, foreign languages, etc.). It is fun to use and correct answers donate grains of rice to third world countries!

Explore Interests: Summer is a perfect time to have your child try something new and discover what they are good at, what they like, and what they hate. Whether it is a part-time job, volunteering, or a home-based project, everyone should be doing something in the summer that will help them learn more about themselves as well as build responsibility, independence, and self-confidence. Your child may need your encouragement if they have not yet found something to dive into on their own.

Job shadow: Summer is a good time to have discussions about what your child finds interesting and then seek out an opportunity for them to do some shadowing to learn about a particular field. Try asking friends and neighbors if your child can spend a few hours at their workplace or at least have a conversation to learn more about that field of work.

Finally, for rising seniors, there is college prep work to be done!

  • Complete a list of colleges to apply to in the fall / winter
  • Schedule additional college visits as needed
  • Prep for and schedule interviews as appropriate
  • Decide if additional testing is needed (if so, schedule summer or fall tests and continue test prep)
  • July – Complete the personal statement for the Common Application
  • July – Complete an Activity Resume if you have multiple extracurricular activities to highlight
  • August – Fill out the Common Application and upload the personal statement
  • August – Look for any supplemental essays that your colleges have posted

Believe me, come this fall, your child will be very happy to have completed this work in the summer! (You will be too.)