This post: Five Major Reasons Why Your Teen’s Life is More Stressful Than You Think
Written by: Marybeth Bock
What do you remember most about being a teenager?
For me, I tend to recall the good times – going to football games and school pep rallies with friends, going to sleepovers and staying up all night talking about everything under the sun and hanging out at the local pizza joint stuffing ourselves so much that we could barely get out of the booth.
Sure, I remember a few of the tough things I had to endure as a teenager – the pimples, the occasional arguments with my parents when I pushed boundaries, the homework I dreaded and wanting so desperately to fit in with the crowd. But mostly, I have fond memories of my teen years.
As we mature, we tend to forget a lot of the heartache and confusion we felt as teenagers.
But we shouldn’t. The truth is, our kids need us to remember.
They need us to remember what it felt like to have a face full of acne, to question whether we were pretty enough or handsome enough or talented enough or smart enough.
They need us to remember how it felt to wonder if we had what it took to make the team and how embarrassed we’d feel if we didn’t.
They need us to remember what life was like in the halls of middle and high school, how it felt like to be left off the invite list, and how we wanted to stand out and fit in all at the same time.
They need us to remember those initial awkward interactions we had with someone we were crushing on, how much time we spent agonizing over girls or guys, our fear of not getting asked to homecoming or prom, and those crazy intimidating feelings we felt when we first started dating.
They need us to remember how hard it was to pull a good grade, what it felt like to get an “F” on a test after we pulled an all-nighter studying and how we dreaded telling our parents because we were sure they’d never understand how hard our Physics or Algebra class really was.
They need us to remember how liberating and downright cool it felt to occasionally break the rules, even though we knew we’d have to face the consequences later.
They need us to remember…
While I can’t say with any specific statistics in hand that teenagers have it harder than we did when we were young. But the honest truth is, it sure feels that way.
I mean, sure, they have the convenience of technology to make life easier and God knows this generation of parents has tried their hardest to provide their kids with a life that is far better than theirs was growing up. Everything considered, it’s easy to assume kids today “have it made.”
But do they?
We have to remember, that even though our kids might have it easier in some areas of their lives, they have more than a few unique challenges they face every single day that create stress and anxiety in their lives. Here are a few reasons why your teen’s life is more stressful than you think.
5 Major Reasons Why Your Teen’s Life is More Stressful Than You Think
#1 Relentless Academic Pressure
Everything about middle school, high school, and college is so much more competitive than it was when we were growing up. Heck, I know middle schoolers who are stressing out about getting into college. Teenagers today feel relentless pressure to perform and stand out in every aspect of their lives. Not just academically, but in sports, volunteering, internships and jobs, and extracurricular activities.
They’re constantly being pushed to take rigorous classes (after all, if they don’t they won’t get into a “good” college), get involved in clubs (not just one they’re passionate about, but two or three or even more), participate in volunteer work, land an internship and get a job that looks good on a college resume – all so they are perfectly poised competitively for the next stage of their life.
#2 Lack of Sleep
Far too many teenagers somehow manage to maintain a daily schedule that few adults could even imagine. They wake up at the crack of dawn, power through their classes, after-school activities, sports, and a job only to come home, and then, as exhausted as they are, try to tackle hours of homework and studying. It’s no wonder the vast majority of teens suffer from lack of sleep.
Pile on the pressure of trying to stay focused amidst relentless distractions including texts from friends, social media posts, and the constant “dinging” of notifications on their phone, and by the time they’re finally finished with homework, they’re so riled up that they couldn’t sleep if they tried. Sleep deprivation and stress (along with anxiety and even depression) go hand-in-hand – few teens today have the freedom to enjoy downtime and truly rest or relax.
#3 The Social Media Comparison Trap
The teen years are typically the time in most kids’ lives when their self-esteem takes a huge hit. Even if they’re not outwardly vocalizing their lack of confidence, most teens are secretly questioning themselves in some way – if their thighs are too big, if they’re too fat or too thin, not popular enough, not muscular enough or too awkward to ever fit in.
And, social media only perpetuates their desire to strive for perfection as they scroll through Instagram, TikTok or Snapchat wishing they could be like that, look like that or be able to do something like that. The haze of filtered, synthetic realism on social media is not only adding boatloads of stress and anxiety in our kids’ lives, but it’s also making them question who they are and their abilities – something we, as parents, never dealt with when we were teenagers.
#4 Navigating Relationships, Dating and Sex
Building and maintaining relationships can be difficult even for adults, but when you’re a teenager trying to navigate complex relationships in today’s world, it can be confusing and sometimes, downright grueling.
Whether our teens are trying to find their place in the hierarchy of popularity in middle school, navigating their way through tumultuous, unstable friendships, or trying to grasp the intimidating world of intimacy, it’s enough to leave even the most confident, well-adjusted teen confused and looking for answers. Pile on the fact that we’re living in a world where hookups seem to be the norm and it can put an awful lot of pressure on teens who want nothing more than to fit in. (NOTE: Not everyone is having sex! Experts have found that while most teens think hookups are the norm and that everyone is having casual sex, the fact is, teens today aren’t having any more sex than they did two, three, or even four generations ago).
#5 Worries About Their Future
It’s a fact, today’s teens are far more stressed out than their parents were at their age. Nearly every teen has valid fears about getting into college, worries about how they’re going to afford college, and whether they’ll land a decent job post-college. And, thanks to 24/7 news on TV and social media platforms, our teens’ list of concerns isn’t just limited to school, college, and their future careers. They also carry the burden of critical issues including worries about the global pandemic, climate change, intense political divide, and racial injustice. The world can seem like a very volatile place on any given day, and more teens are reporting feelings of anxiety and depression.
Open, honest communication is the key to keeping your teen’s stress level down.
Remember these things:
- Your teen’s life is more stressful than you think – even if they don’t always show it. Whether your teen seems overly stressed to you or not, always offer them the support they need and make sure they know your love is unconditional.
- When your teen starts to open up, put everything else aside and listen with your heart. Oftentimes, they just need to vent, not necessarily hear solutions.
- Let your teen know (often!) that they can talk to you about any subject, no matter how trivial it seems to you, or how difficult and awkward it might feel to them (or you).
- Spend time with your teen, especially when you know they’re feeling stressed, like during exams or try-outs for an activity. Ask them what you can do to help create a little break with some chill time or laughter.
Remember, you have the power to be a strong, positive influence on your teen’s overall outlook on life and their stress levels.
About Marybeth Bock:
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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