A recent talk to high school parents at the American School in Japan focused on teenage stress. Our current generation of students is feeling greater pressure to succeed in an increasingly competitive world. . The 2007-8 TELL survey of 2000 adolescents found that academics and the future were their biggest worries. This is taking an emotional and physical toll on our youth who are sleeping less and feeling more stress, as they try to juggle many different responsibilities. Here are a few ways parents can help.
Help them manage their schedules
When teens are overscheduled, we rob them of the free time to explore their interests and fully immerse themselves in their passions. Overscheduled teens are often forced to sacrifice family-time. It is a misconception to believe adolescents do not want to spend time with their families. Several U.S. surveys have found that teens cited lack of family-time as one of their top concerns. A recent Columbia University survey found that teenagers who eat with their families at least five times a week are more likely to get better grades in school. Parents need to be aware when their children are caring too heavy a load or need help with time-management. Parents can also help by scheduling pleasant activities, breaks and downtime.
Get enough sleep
Would you be surprised to know that studies estimate that at least 20% of all high school students fall asleep in class once a week? High school students need an average of 8.5- 9.5 hours of sleep a night, but get an average of 6.5 – 7.0 hours. Lack of sleep is negatively impacting their mood, academic performance and health. Teens are preprogrammed to stay up later and wake later. Parents can help by making the bedroom more conducive for sleep by minimizing distractions, such as access to the computer late at night.
Deep breathing, visualization and progressive muscle relaxation are exercises that can help relax their body and mind. To learn more about these techniques, downloadable audio files can be found at the website http://medweb.mit.edu/wellness/resources/downloads.html.
Talk about your problems
Teens need to vent, which often helps them solve their problems. Parents can help by not always trying to give advice or solve their problems. Look for “hearing” opportunities. TELL continues to meet with teens at international schools to talk about the TELL Life Line, as a safe and confidential place for teens to call and talk to a caring person.