Recently my teenage son was talking to someone and mentioned feeling stressed out and they replied ‘what’s stressful at your age?’. He mentioned his exams but that got me thinking about how teens do have a lot of stress. They are no longer at that carefree, naive part of childhood and yet they are not mature enough to understand everything. This creates a potentially dangerous combination and that is probably why you hear about teenage depression and even suicide.
Teens have the pressure to do well in school and compete for their future success. Those who live in good school districts often have college-level courses and an overwhelming level of work. Meanwhile, those who live in lesser neighborhoods may fear violence and might struggle to get an education. They are all reminded that they need to do well to have a chance at a good future and this competition and pressure looms overhead. However, they are still young and working on being focused while a part of them just wants to play. They are walking a fine line between childhood and maturity.
There are also so many social pressures to deal with. They may have to navigate through bullying, cliques, or mean girls. They may not have a support system to rely on. They may have raging hormones and not know how to deal with unrequited feelings. All these issues seem small and trivial once you are an adult who has successfully passed through this stage but it can be all-encompassing for a teen. All these things can cause stress and even have long-term effects on self-esteem.
As if these things weren’t enough, these kids may have unhappiness or pressure to deal with at home. Parents often start to let teen children in on the problems, thinking that they are old enough to understand. They no longer shelter them from the negativity and uncertainties. Although it is good for the teen to have some exposure to ‘real life’, sometimes they aren’t ready to process all of that. And in addition to all this, there are so many scary realities about the world. We as adults worry about the economy, jobs, terrorism, government but a less mature brain may also take this on as personal stress.
It’s a fine balance for us as parents to deal with our teens and not create unhealthy stress. We need to motivate them and expose them to the world so that they are ready for it one day. However, we might also need to shelter them and let them feel safe. There is no harm in enjoying the end of childhood, they have the rest of their lives to be adults.