Is high school stress taking an emotional and pyschological toll on our students?
By JayatiSengupta on May 15, 2012
Transitioning to a Middle School , High School or College is anything but easy. Like most students who harbor a wish to go to great colleges, students and their parents know that the road to college is certainly not a bed of roses. Colleges expect a lot more from students these days. Along with a plate full of challenging courses, you are expected to excel in a few areas outside of academics. There is a constant pressure to have high grades and challenging classes if they want to make it to a good college.
Teen stress is sweeping the country in Middle Schools and High Schools. Much as I would love to have our children excel in academics with top notch GPAs to get ready for college, realization has dawned that the price to pay for this is high. Sleep deprivation, stress, depression, constant pressure from parents is something the average teen has to take on a daily basis. Majority of teachers have no idea about a student's colossal workload nor do they make an attempt to connect and collaborate with families. Those that are helpful and supportive continue to amaze me with their positive teaching. Their rules are not set in stone and they practice differentiated instruction. Such teachers take certain diverse factors into account and chalk out a style that works based on abilities and interests. In other words, what applies to an advanced student may not apply to a middle or average student. Rules that apply to a student with less challenging coursework may not necessarily help others that have difficult Honor or AP courses. Unfortunately, many still subscribe to the herd mentality and do not belong to this school of thought. Rules are rules to them that simply cant be bent.
According to a study conducted at Stanford, http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X%2805%2900377-0/abstract , depression affects 2-8% of all children and adolescents. Teenagers need 8-9 hours of sleep every night. However studies have shown that the pressure to do well in school alongside sports and other electives is pushing them to the brink. Early start times along with circadian rhythms have given rise to a new sleep epidemic.
If you happen to travel for sports , performing arts or anything else there is a backlog of work that welcomes on your return.On top of that if you are injured or have sickness related absences , it can be very stressful and hard to make up for the time lost. A new system where teachers have more flexible policies with homework and testing is in order. Compromising on mental and physical health has become a norm as children struggle with performance pressure inside and outside of school. Some sports clubs are going great lengths to ensure kids do well in school. At Norcal Crew (http://norcalcrew.org/) a private rowing club for High Schoolers in the San Francisco Bay Area , coaches enforce study and homework times during weekend regattas. Even though crew is a rigorous sport that requires a high level of commitment they work with families to balance sports and academics.
Many of these things taking a toll on our children are preventable. Our educators need to realize the perils of raising a generation of sleep deprived, socially anxious, depressed kids. Success is not just measure of academic progress but it comes in many forms. Allowing kids to be passionate about what they do while balancing their schedules and get tons of sleep is easier said than done. Parents should strive to be in contact with teachers and the school authorities when they notice that a child's overloaded schedule is leading to stress. School Authorities need to perhaps introduce Health topics like Teen Stress to Teachers and make them aware of how the demands of getting to the best colleges along with strong co-curriculars can be particularly stressful for students.
As a mother who goes through the same parenting challenges, I try to seek new ways to alleviate stress. When I started a part-time student jobs and gig marketplace, www.flipgigs.com, I wanted to create a platform where students can take the time to nurture a hobby or a talent that leads to enjoyable experiences and overall helps with some of this stress and anxiety management. A fun summer part time job can be very relaxing for students as they get an opportunity to meet new people while making some neat income to allow for some shopping breaks.For my children who are athletes in training, getting massages has helped to directly offset anxiety especially on the days before exams. For those that are worried about costs, even a half hour massage can have such a calming effect. Yoga is another class that I would like to introduce my children to. Even simple things like breathing exercises or taking a long walk outdoors may have a calming effect. When I grew up, school was an enjoyable experience without the fierce competition that surrounds my kids today.
I dread to think how we may be bringing up a generation of kids that are doing just too much with little understanding from parents, teachers and school authorities. To maintain intellectual vigor and heart health in later years, teenagers need enough sleep. It's time parents and school staff got together time to time to prevent such problems and allow our youth to thrive.
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