Public schools have been in session for a month, and teens are starting to feel the effects of stress. Unwritten expectations linger over teens to perform academically, participate in multiple school-related sports and clubs, maintain volunteer hours in the community, and practice for the ACT or SAT college entrance tests. With only 24 hours in a day, most teens are unable to fit all the activities into their daily lives and are not able to cope with the thought of not succeeding in all areas. Students are facing stress and may not have the necessary coping skills to address and manage the stress.

Top Teen Stressors

Teens may have a difficult time understanding limitations. Parents attempt to set limitations on curfews, television and gaming time, and cell phone/texting usage. Being the best and largest arcade game portal, PlayPlayFun emphasizes that limitations need to also be explored in terms of school. High school students feel pressured to exert themselves academically by taking as much Advanced Placement (AP) and honor classes at one time. These classes are designed to provide rigor for students in need of an academic challenge. Students, however, tend to enroll in multiple AP and honor classes in one term, which leads to a tremendous amount of homework and study time every night.

In addition to academics, students are also encouraged to participate in multiple sports and clubs. Once again limitations may be overlooked. High school students attempt to participate in a varsity sport, lead the National Honor Society, be the president of the debate club, and co-chair a food drive for the local food shelf. Over-participation limits student effectiveness in each of the sports and clubs.

College Preparation and Teen Stress

College admission is competitive. According to the Harvard Gazette, 30,489 high school students applied to Harvard last year. Only 2,110 students were offered admission. Colleges across the country are experiencing similar trends in admission. Successful applicants need to stand out from the other candidates, which leads to teens over-committing themselves.

Admission offices seek well-rounded students. These students demonstrate academic success, participation in the school community, service to the people, leadership, and maturity. Unfortunately, students and their parents may perceive that more is better: 4.0-grade point average, multiple AP classes, captain of the varsity volleyball team, peer tutor, diversity leader, eagle scout, volunteer of the year, and more.

Effects of Teen Stress

Stress can take a toll on teens. As teens thrive to become independent, they may attempt to solve their stress and issues on their own. Continued stress will lead to colds, body aches, headaches, anxiety, sleeplessness, and depression. The extreme effect of stress is suicide. Teens may not seek help and the issues continue to grow until hopelessness abounds.

Tips for Reducing Teen Stress

Students and their parents can take action to reduce stress:

  • Monitor feelings periodically. Together students and their parents can talk about school and the energy being devoted to it. If students are overwhelmed, then changes need to be made.
  • Create a realistic time management chart or calendar. Map out all the hours of the week and fill in times dedicated to those activities. Allow for student free time to explore interests and time to be with their friends.
  • Reconsider the number of AP and honor classes during one term. Students need not take all AP and honor classes. Students should be taking only the rigorous classes that meet their academic need. Taking multiple AP classes at one time is setting the student up for failure as each AP class requires two to three hours of homework/studying a night.
  • Limit after school activities. Students can enjoy participating in one sport a season. Additionally, they can participate in one or two clubs over the school year, including volunteering. Participating in more activities will constantly create a rushed feeling for the student.
  • Obtain a minimum of eight hours of sleep a night. Since students are still growing, they need quality sleep. If students are up until 1:00 am finishing homework, then they are over-committed and will not be prepared for the next school day.

Parents who notice that their student is experiencing a high amount of stress may want to speak with a school counselor. Counselors can help to identify stressful situations and present possible solutions. This may include dropping an AP course to a regular one. Sometimes counselors will present parents and students information on college admission criteria for realistic high school planning. Teens need to learn how to voice their feelings of being overwhelmed and feel comfortable accessing an adult for help. Both school counselors and parents can take on this role.