During this time of the school year, high school seniors are enthusiastically announcing their post high school plans. Each year of high school presents a different set of stressors that the students must navigate. Many rising seniors are anxiously embarking on the college application process and rising juniors are starting to prepare for the SAT/ACT test.
Parents must play the role of guiding their teens through the ups and downs that come along with the process. While the stress can be sensed in the teens, parents also have their own set of challenges to navigate alongside their teens. What can your teen do to mitigate the stress during these years and what can you do as a parent to provide the best guidance? How do you prevent your teen from burning out, feeling overstressed, and being overwhelmed?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the most common set of teen stressors are body changes, academic demands, pressure from social media, peer pressure, interpersonal relationships, extracurricular activities and getting into a good college. Although not on the list (AAP), parental expectation and self-imposed expectations can also add to the stress teens feel. Evidently, high school can feel like a very stressful and overwhelming time for many students. Thankfully, there are many strategies that a teen can do to manage stress and maintain one’s mental health.
First and foremost, it’s important for the student to prioritize self-care. This means getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly. As parents, during these stressful years, you need to keep an eye on these elements of your teen’s lives. When your teen takes care of their physical health, they are better equipped to handle stress and manage their emotions. Make sleep a priority for them especially on the weekends when they can get at least 8 hours of sleep. Eating a variety of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains as well as engaging in physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day can help keep stress under control.
Another way for your teen to manage high school stress is to stay organized and manage time effectively. It is never too late for your teen to learn to use a planner or calendar to keep track of assignments, deadlines, and extracurricular activities. Break larger projects into smaller, manageable tasks, and make sure they set realistic goals for themselves. By staying organized and managing time effectively, one can avoid last-minute stress and ensure that they are meeting their obligations (I know some parents are thinking this is an impossible task for some teens. For some, it’s a work in progress. Trust the process!)
Finally, it’s important to encourage high school students to maintain a positive mindset and focus on the things that bring them joy. Parents can encourage their teens to stay positive and keep perspective through the challenges of high school. Make time for hobbies and activities that are enjoyable, whether it’s playing sports, reading, or spending time with friends. By focusing on the things that bring them joy, they can reduce stress and maintain a positive outlook on life. Also remind yourself that, as they accept that high school is nearing the end, they are facing the reality of separating from their friends and the scary idea of potentially moving on and managing life on their own. Some welcome the change with enthusiasm, and others are overwhelmed with the change.
Throughout the process, as a parent, maintain good communication with your teen. When you sense your teen is stressed, encourage them to seek support from others. Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or high school counselor may be helpful. When your teen is hesitant to heed your advice as their “out-of-touch” parent, others can offer support and guidance as they navigate this stressful time. Remind your teen that they are not alone. While we know this is just another step along their journey, the uncertainty of what lies ahead can be daunting. Tell them not to be afraid to ask for help if they need it.