We sat down with some of our teen Peer Counselors to talk to them about the pressures they face during back-to-school and what parents can do to help them positively get through the school year.
Most of our teens agreed that having bad teachers, lots of classmates and plenty of homework can be overwhelming, but it can be more than that. “It’s just the expectations you have to meet. You have to do all these things now to get in to a good college, to get a good job. It’s a lot of pressure if you mess up now,” one Peer Counselor, a senior this year, stated.
But some have other worries on their mind, “For me, it’s trying to be fashionable. Look good. Fit in.”
With all this pressure, what can parents and adults do to help teens navigate their school years positively? One teen put it bluntly, “Give us a little bit of a break!”
Another elaborated, “I don’t want to be afraid to make a mistake. Let us make some mistakes so we can learn from them.”
“Yeah, I don’t want to be afraid to talk to my parents about if I’m failing. I want to know that grades aren’t everything, that it will be okay.” One of our other seniors added. “Like if I’m scared to tell them about that, how can I feel comfortable telling them anything else?”
It is important for any adult to remember that teens are still developing their life skills. A failing grade in a class is our equivalent of losing a job. A divorce to an adult is the same as a break-up for a teen. Consider your teen’s point of view when they talk to you about the stress in their life.
So, how do our teens handle stress at school? “If you’re in class and upset, some teachers let you listen to music.”
Encouraging your teens to listen to music, write, exercise or even meditate, when appropriate, will help your teens relieve stress. “Sometimes I’ll try to find a place I can go and sit by myself and cool off.”
Another Peer Counselor, a junior this year, pointed out, “Joining clubs or just finding people with similar interests can help me relax after school and just think about something fun for a while.”
It’s not all bad, though! Teens do enjoy some aspects of school, “Seeing friends after summer break. Hanging out. It’s an escape if you’ve been in the house all summer.”
And of course, “Back to school shopping is really cool!”
As we get in to the swing of a new school year, be mindful of your teen’s struggles. Encourage them, but be supportive in their ups and downs. Listen to them if they seem stressed, and if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you, they can always call Teen Lifeline.