You may not believe this, but I start hearing about college admission anxiety from 7th or even 6th graders. The pre-teens and teens I work with share that teachers start asking them what they want to do for a living, where they want to go to college and “preparing” them for what they will need to do to achieve these goals. This is well-intended. Teachers want to help kids achieve higher education. However, Gen Y is experiencing this as extreme pressure to decide their future, and believe this requires near perfect grades to achieve it.
Research is showing that Gen Y is quickly becoming America’s most stressed generation. With exam pressures and college admissions anxiety at an all-time high, academic stress can become a daily struggle. According to an Associated Press/MTV survey, school was the most frequentlymentioned source of stress for 13 to 17-year-olds.
Whether it’s parents pushing teenagers to boost their GPA, teachers criticizing them for less-than-stellar test scores, or their own drive to get in to their first-choice college — or some combination of the three.- academic pressure is rising and impacts stress, self-esteem, and mental wellness as a whole.
That’s why it’s important for YOU to learn how to support your teen without adding pressure and more stress.
Here are some ways to help cut down on some of that stress:
1) Stress breeds stress
Teenagers will often say that their parents are more anxious or care more about where they go to college than they do. Or that they don’t get a say because their parents want them to go to _____ School. Remember that your teen can feel your anxiety even when you don’t say anything. As pressure amounts and reactions grow stronger instead of having your teens back you may find yourself harboring frustration, or yelling at your teen. It is important for you to do your own de-stressing. This is an anxiety provoking process for you too. Do your own self-care!
2) Stop Being a Helicopter Parent
I can’t tell how often I hear from my teens that they feel they need to be better for their parents. They feel pressure because their parents are always checking their grades online, looking up application statuses or college admission requirements. STOP checking online. These behaviors come from a good intention in you. As parents you want your children to succeed and you are trying to help. However, the message they get is that you don’t think they can do it on their own. Give them space to find their own way through the process. This takes me to our next skill:
3) Ask If They Need Help
Many parents see their teens stressed and try to fix the problem. This leads to the situation we just discussed (helicopter parenting). What parent wants to see their child in pain? None that I know. But teens don’t want to be fixed; they want to heard and supported. Ask them what you can do rather than telling them how to do it. Take the time to listen to their stressors. Be a team and come up with a plan together.
4) Be the voice of reason
There may be moments when your teen feels like they are having a breakdown. “I am never going to get this all done.” “I will never get into a good college.” “No place will accept me.” “I am stupid.” Be the voice of reason. Remember that stress breeds stress. Remain calm and remind them they will be okay. There is no perfect college. They will survive the process.
5) Take a Stress Break
Nothing beats taking a break. Remind yourself and your teen that breaks are important. We work better and smarter when we are de-stressed.
Overall, I find that the best way to de-stress is with some laughter and fun. Try and find some humor in the process or in some of your reactions. College prep is the first step children take as they prepare for adulthood. Make it work for you, not against you and give yourself a break!