Parenting Teens About Performance-Based Stress
People are often surprised when I tell them how much pressure many kids in DuPage County face. They picture the area as quiet and idyllic, a welcome break from the noise of Chicago.
In some ways, they’re right. There are wonderful communities here filled with families and parents who try as best they can. But at the same time, I regularly talk with classrooms filled with middle schoolers and high schoolers about ways they can cope with the unrelenting stress they deal with every day.
There are tons of healthy stress relievers, including good sleep, daily exercise and plenty of rest. But as our counselors often say during family therapy sessions, the best stress relief starts with a parental perspective shift.
Stress is killing our kids.
It’s not just in DuPage County. All over the U.S., kids are told to perform non-stop so they can be better than their peers, get into elite colleges and secure high-paying jobs. And because non-stop performance is impossible, teens burn out and rebel, or they develop addictions to cope or—most heartbreaking of all—they take their own lives because they don’t see any other way out. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24 (2016 CDC WISQARS).
How to shift your parenting perspective.
Back when Green Day was in its infancy as a band, they wrote a line in “Longview” that still resonates with me to this day.
My mother says to get a job
But she don’t like the one she’s got
Kids are SMART. They notice things you might think they don’t. So when they’re being told to get good grades, get into a great college and get a lucrative job by a parent who did that very thing and is still not happy, well, suffice it to say they aren’t elated about their future.
But when you reinforce their character instead of their performance, a weight is lifted off their shoulders. If you notice and applaud their honesty, their integrity, how good of a friend they are, they feel seen and known. When you tell them how proud you are of how hard they studied for that exam, how much they sweat at practice, how devoted they are to their after school activities, their work ethic and integrity soars.
Remember those healthy stress relievers I mentioned earlier? Do them together! Go for walks and check in with each other, meditate and pray together, cook healthy dinners as a family and simplify your overloaded schedules together.
And of course, family counseling can do wonders.
Parenting teens about anything is supremely difficult. And if it’s something as serious as anxiety or stress, it’s darn near impossible. That’s exactly why Stenzel Clinical has four offices in the Chicago suburbs. Our counselors are family counseling experts who can help your household alter behaviors and find a little more hope and happiness. Reach out to us when you feel compelled. We’ll be here.
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