3 Things Teenagers Silently Struggle With Every Day

Plus, ways to help them tackle those challenges

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: 3 Things Teenagers Silently Struggle With Every Day

Written by: Ali Flynn

Some days I just stop and look in awe at my teens. Honestly, I’m completely overwhelmed with everything they have going on in their lives. I can’t even begin to imagine how it feels for them to have so much pressure and responsibility on their shoulders at such a young age.

Everything from keeping up with the demands of school and their grades, learning how to drive and applying for college to social media and friend pressure, family life, and after-school activities all seem to hit them hard in a very short time span in their lives. 

It’s a lot… like really a lot!

As a mom of four girls, (three in high school and one in college), I’ve had more than a few heart-to-heart conversations with my girls and I’ve learned that there are three main areas where my girls tend to struggle – areas that, in fact, I think most teens struggle and often internalize.  

Rather than watching our kids struggle through this phase of their life, let’s help them tackle their biggest challenges together with open arms and an open heart. Here are three things teenagers silently struggle with every day and how to help them. 

3 Things Teenagers Silently Struggle with Every Day


#1 Constant Distraction

Our teen’s cell phone and their infatuation with social media has taken over a large portion of their world. And, as much as we’d like to fault them, we can’t because most adults are battling the same challenge. The fact is, most teens don’t even realize that they’re addicted to their cell phones, that the vast majority of their free time is spent scrolling through Instagram or TikTok videos, or how often they check their phones for texts from friends. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, the consequence of distraction is that “it fosters a culture of lost threads, stunted thinking and stress.” When our kids are constantly distracted, they lose their thought process and it becomes difficult to define, pursue or accomplish goals, and new ideas get abandoned and forgotten before they even have a chance to develop – all of which perpetuates their stress.

How to Help Your Teen

The battle of getting our kids’ cell phones out of their hands (even long enough for them to study for a test) or limiting the amount of time they spend scrolling mindlessly is a tough challenge. But we have to help our kids learn to ignore distractions. While there isn’t a “fix-all” to the problem, the ABC technique is a proven method that a lot of people have found helpful. 

A – Awareness: Identify and recognize what the distraction is. (Perhaps it’s incoming texts, social media notifications or the temptation to constantly check Instagram.)

B – Breathing Deeply: Take some time to slow down and review your options to avoid distraction. 

C – Choice: Making a mindful choice to deal with the distraction. (Putting their cell phone in another room, shutting it off, or downloading a distraction app.) 

Other ways to help your teen include being a solid role model when it comes to your own cell phone use and teaching them that they don’t have to be “on-call” 24/7.  (It really can wait!) Also, by putting parental boundaries/parameters in place (if needed), while also providing the freedom and flexibility so your kids begin to self-regulate their cellphone use. 

#2 Relentless Academic Pressure and the Burden of Getting into College

Every year, it seems to start earlier. Today, even middle schoolers are feeling pressure to choose the right classes, get good grades, and “position” themselves for better class placement in high school. The pressure continues throughout middle and high school with our teens being bogged down with homework, projects, and AP courses, not to mention the additional stress of having to round out their future college application by getting involved in extracurricular activities, volunteering, landing an internship and possibly working a part-time job. 

Whether we realize it or not, our kids are drowning in heavy responsibility – all driven by the need to improve their transcript, get a high GPA and give them “the edge” so they can stand out from the crowd on college applications. 

How to Help Your Teen

What we first have to recognize, as parents. is that we can’t completely “fix” this situation. Like it or not, most (not all) colleges are looking for a specific type of student – one who’s challenged themselves, juggled a number of extracurricular activities, volunteered in a leadership position – all while maintaining a respectable GPA. 

So, while we may not be able to eradicate all the academic pressure our kids are feeling, what we can do is take the pressure off at home. We can let them vent about their stress and offer helpful (and healthy) stress relievers to help them cope. We can talk them down from the mountain of perfection their striving for and remind them that they can’t do it all, that we don’t expect perfection, and that we love them no matter what. We can recognize that our kids are trying desperately to stay afloat and remember that the next time we feel the urge to nag or yell because their room is a little messy or they forgot to clean up after themselves after making a snack. 

One thing I’ve learned, as a teacher and a parent, is that our teens need to know they are so much more than their grades. Their intelligence will never be defined by letters or numbers and we need to help them refocus, see the bigger picture and view their self-worth from a much broader perspective. 

#3 The Need to “Measure Up”

Why, oh why, do our teens feel so much pressure to be perfect? And, why are they so hard on themselves when they feel they don’t “measure up?”  The harsh reality is, most teens struggle with self-esteem issues. In fact, in Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, “7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school, in relationships, with friends and even family members.” And, interestingly, in other studies, boys don’t fall too far behind girls statistically.

Whether it’s the haze of synthetic realism they scroll through on social media every day, falling into the comparison trap of celebrity perfection or the quiet “nudges’ from teachers and society to do better and be better, teens today are running at race-pace toward an imaginary goal that doesn’t exist. 

How to Help Your Teen

It all begins with self-compassion. Our teens need to learn to love themselves, accept themselves (with all their wonderful flaws) and cut themselves some slack when they struggle or mess up. Talk to your teen. Encourage them to take the pressure off, to accept their limitations and embrace who they are. Keep them active and engaged in healthy activities, sports and/or hobbies they love so they don’t have as much time to scroll through images that tear down their self-esteem on social media. Encourage them to surround themselves with others who accept themselves because they silently give your teen permission to do the same. 

Also, help them develop positive “self-talk” skills to nip those negative thoughts in the bud, praise their efforts instead of outcomes, and do your best to model self-confidence, resilience and a strong sense of self so your teen has a guide to follow. 

Not only is raising teens hard, being a teen is hard, too. The things teenagers silently struggle with day-in-and-day-out and the accompanying pressure they face as a result can be a source of overwhelming frustration and stress. Sadly, so often our kids don’t always openly share their struggles with us or anyone else – they simply internalize them. 

So let’s lean in and listen – truly listen to the unspoken and spoken words our teens share. They need someone on the sidelines cheering them on, gently nudging them, and guiding them along the way. Let’s be the positive, supportive cheerleader on the sidelines our teens need today. 


About Ali Flynn:

Ali Flynn is excited to share with you the joys and hardships of motherhood with an open heart, laughter, and some tears. Ali is a monthly guest contributor for Westchester County Moms and has been seen on Filter Free Parents, Grown and Flown, Today Parents, The Mighty, Her View From Home, and His View From Home, where she shares inspirational stories about motherhood while keeping it real. You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram.


If you enjoyed reading, “3 Things Teenagers Silently Struggle with Every Day,” check out these other posts!

Disorganized and Distracted: 6 Tips to Help Your Teen Tackle Homework with Confidence

10 Powerful Habits to Help Your Teen Improve Their Self-Discipline

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1 comment

BLo July 15, 2023 - 9:13 pm

As a mom of homeschoolers, I don’t feel this applies. Maybe this is more of the struggle of traditional school kids? I asked my kids and they said #1 was sort of true and that was it.


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