December can be festive for some, stressful for others, and a little bit of each for most of our students.
There is a ramp up in tests, papers and projects due before the holidays, while sports, play practice, jobs, etc., continue on in full swing as before. Add to that the expectation that kids leave time for family holiday gatherings and gift shopping, as well as college applications for those seniors who are applying regular decision, and it’s understandable that our kids may be a bit fragile.
And who can blame them? There isn’t a lot of down time for our high schoolers these days. Students say they are feeling the pressure of needing to do well in school while also excelling in extracurricular activities in order to be attractive to colleges.
There is some truth to the pressure our kids feel. As parents, however, we can help them keep things in perspective:
- Encourage down time. Plenty of sleep, along with time to relax, laugh and enjoy being a teen goes a long toward making everything else fall into place. If your teen is too tightly scheduled, something may need to go.
Do be on the lookout for more serious signs that your child is dealing with a level of anxiety or depression that may require professional help. Winter and its associated decrease in sunshine can sometimes be a contributing factor.
- Have the conversation. Our students need to know that while we want them to work hard in school and engage in a meaningful activity or two, we also want them to enjoy these special years (safely!).
Remind them that they will still be able to go to college if their grades are not perfect and that they do not need to be involved in multiple activities just to pad their resume. Encourage them to find something they love to do. That passion will be shared with colleges and they will be happy to hear about it, even if it is not a varsity sport, lead in the play or a class officer type of thing.
Not everyone is an academic superstar and there is a lot to be said for learning to find a balance between working to the best of your ability and leaving some room for other activities and down time. There are many adults who have not learned this yet and it often catches up to them at some point.
Some of our kids need support to find that activity that they love and may need a push to try something through a club, volunteering or a solo project that they research on the internet. Spending time in an activity they love will often give them the energy needed to hang in there with school work that may be less enticing.
- Stay supportive. Keep in mind, as you get together with relatives and friends over the holidays, that some seniors will be beaming with pride having already been accepted to their dream school, while others still have months of uncertainty and angst ahead. Still others have yet to begin the process and are unsure if college is the right step for them at all.
Needless to say, these few weeks can be a worrisome time and it’s best to steer the conversation in another direction if your child is getting grilled with questions as each new relative arrives!
Hoping you and your kids find some down time to relax together over the holidays.