It's an unlikely question to be asked of students returning to school, but the likely response is not a single hand raised. That same question could be asked of any adult, with an equally predictable response.
But that hasn't stopped adults from applying more pressure than ever on students. In an era when mindfulness is almost everywhere, the idea of celebrating the present moment has somehow gotten lost when it comes to raising teens. Parents drive themselves into a panic juggling near impossible extracurricular activity schedules for their children without thinking of the effect it's having on the student and then lament being reduced to a chauffeur; all for supposedly improving the odds of college acceptance. It robs families of family time - whether it be dinner or playing games, watching TV or any other group experience that is about relating to each other in a non competitive way. And it robs everyone of moments of peace.
The ever more future-oriented perspective leaves little time for teens to experience their own life on their terms. Feeling pressure to meet or share in parents' expectations, while putting their own interests second, sets a bad precedent in future endeavors and relationships and is an underlying cause to the anxiety and depression rising among teens today. And without learning how to be responsible and manage their life on their own, young adults set themselves up to fall hard.
Yes, college is a natural next step for many, but there really isn't "the one" college that will provide everything and against which all other colleges will lead to failure. While it’s good to have a mind toward the future, let the journey be the enriching part to life. Then exploration of interests in a new environment with different circumstances can make the most out of any college experience.
How can you - both parents and teens - make changes to a stress inducing life?
- Balancing relationships by allowing down time for meaningful, non competitive types (friendships, dating, family)
- Balancing achievement-focused activities with volunteering
- Allow your teens to make changes based on their needs and interests (or lack of).
- Be supportive, rather than a secondary coach
Need some help finding balance in both your and your teen’s life? Consider an appointment with the therapist at Philadelphia MFT, where we can help as you seek out changes to be made, as well and managing the effects of the stress as is.
This Topic of the Week was written by Brian Swope, MFT.