Stress is a familiar occurrence for adults in our hectic world, but recently it has also shown up in great numbers in high schools. A combination of social media, cyberbullying, and college pressure may be to blame.

Online, teenagers often act as their own public relations managers,  constantly posting updates and replying to feedback — often until late at night. Sometimes they share in order to create false personas of who they want to be, or who they think they should be.

At school, the stress multiplies as students are encouraged to think about college as early as their freshman year. “The bar is being raised for the kids in almost every element of life that you could think of,” shares Jared Mason, Teen Programming Director at the Alive Center. “It’s being raised for academics, it’s being raised for athletics, it’s being raised for extracurricular involvement, all these different areas.” He mentions that teens believe that performing “under the bar” is unacceptable, and they internalize the stress they accumulate.

This stress is not only brought on by social media and schools, but by parents. Some parents will request that their child be placed in accelerated, honors, or Advanced Placement courses, regardless of if their child is capable of handling the workload. Mason suggests that parents might be the next step in helping their child avoid stress by teaching them to stop listening to the “noise” of fellow students and of Ivy League schools. By asking their children what they want to do or what they’re interested in doing, parents can use communication to effectively help with stress.

The culture of stress is hard to break, and since colleges have begun to consider more holistic reviews of students, looking at both academics and extracurriculars, students are feeling even more stressed than ever. Kandice Henning, founder of the Alive Center, says that teens now feel pressured to have both a stellar GPA and full schedule. While some students are able to work well under pressure, most are left wondering why it so hard to be a “well-rounded student.” A new kind of parenting may offer a solution, wherein parents teach their children to cope with their stress and understand why they’re stressed. “Stress is not bad. In the appropriate dose, stress is strengthening, says Dr. Michael Bradley, clinical psychologist and author, “you want to find that sweet spot in the middle.”

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  • Dr. Michael Bradley, clinical psychologist and author, Crazy-Stressed: Saving Today’s Overwhelmed Teens With Love, Laughter, and the Science of Resilience

  • Jared Mason, Teen Programming Director, Alive Center, Naperville, IL and former high school English teacher

  • Saumya Bharti, senior, Naperville Central High school and member, Student Advisory Board, Alive Center

  • Kandice Henning, Founder and Executive Director, Alive Center

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