Parents can help teens manage overscheduling stress –   Leave a comment By Kim Painter

Lauren Biglow, a college freshman, once was one of those high school students with crazy, stressful schedules — high-level academics mixed with sports, clubs, community service, and way too little sleep, real food or unstructured fun.

But her parents, she says, were not part of the problem.

“I would come home overflowing with stress over the fact that I had so many things to do simultaneously. And they would say, ‘This is crazy, listen to yourself. You need to take a breath, re-evaluate and decide what you need to cut down on.’ ”

Biglow says she did cut down, a bit, and ended up taking fewer Advanced Placement (AP) classes than some peers. She dropped one of her three sports. It worked out: The spring graduate of Los Altos High School, in California, is at highly regarded Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Biglow and her parents did what a growing chorus of psychologists, educators and activist parents say is needed: They talked about school stress and did something about it.

A teen’s view

This was the to-do list of Yasmeen Serhan, 17, a senior at Los Altos High School, in California, on a recent Sunday:

— Read a chapter for an advanced placement (AP) economics class.
— Create a study guide for an AP environmental science test.
— Read 100 pages of a novel and start brainstorming a senior project for AP English.
— Do calculus homework.
— Plan the first meeting of her mock trial club (“I’m the president,” she says).
— College applications (but, she might not get to that).

“It’s insane,” and she is “stressed out” and sacrificing sleep to keep up. But, she says, “I’m used to the pressure.”

Her parents do sometimes suggest she ease up, she says. But she’s glad they haven’t done what one friend’s dad tried last year: He made her go to bed at a certain time, even with homework not done. “I have just too much work to do,” she says.

Many have those talks after seeing Race To Nowhere, a year-old film still playing regularly in school auditoriums nationwide. The film describes teens “pushed to the brink” by performance pressure. This fall, community groups inspired by the film are campaigning to “take back the break” and get school districts to ban homework during school holidays, says the film’s producer and co-director Vicki Abeles, a San Francisco-area mother of three.

School policies, on homework and other matters, certainly play a role in burning out some students — and failing to give others much of a challenge at all.

But, when it comes to relieving student stress, there is no place like home. As fall grades start to roll in, here are some things parents can do to help:

Drop the inquisition. When your teen walks in from school, your first question should not be “How did you do on your math test,” says Madeline Levine, a psychologist and co-founder of Challenge Success, a non-profit research and education project at Stanford University. Try asking, “How was your day?” You may get nothing more than “fine,” and that is just fine, Levine says. Many kids just need a break after school.

Help them do the math. When your teen wants to add a club, sport or class, ask them to add up the time it takes to do each thing in their day, including homework, eating, sleeping and socializing. “If they are signing up for 28 hours a day, it should be clear that this just isn’t going to work,” says Denise Pope, an education researcher and Challenge Success co-founder.

Step away from their homework. Yes, some parents write high-school English papers and college application essays, Levine says. The message they send to their kids: You are incompetent.

Talk to teachers. “Often, kids bring home bad grades or mediocre grades and parents start hiring tutors without even telling teachers,” Pope says. A better idea, she says: Meet with the teacher and your teen to find solutions.

“Protect sleep at all costs,” Abeles says. Sleep-deprived teens are more likely to fight, drink, have sex, get depressed and consider suicide, says a study released in September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teach them to chill. Some kids turn to alcohol or drugs, Pope says, but have yet to learn the magic of exercise, meditation, music, and downtime.

Posted October 14, 2011 by greggornation in Family, General, School

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Facts & Dreams

"Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet." -Victor Hugo

%d bloggers like this: