It’s a fact. Teens today are far more stressed out and anxious than past generations.
Whether it’s societal influences such as social media pressuring our kids to strive for perfection, outside forces such as peer pressure and school, the desire to measure up in their parents’ eyes or a compilation of factors, too many kids today are pushing themselves toward an invisible finish line they feel compelled to reach.
As a parent whose kids often measure themselves against unrealistically high standards, I can relate. I’m the one discouraging them from taking that third AP class. I’m encouraging them to slow down, and reminding them that as much as I want them to be successful, their happiness and, more importantly, their well-being is far more important to me.
Whether we choose to admit it or not, kids today are under a lot of pressure. Maybe too much pressure. And that pressure holds the power to compromise their happiness, and in some cases, their emotional and mental health.
Reducing stress and Pressure In Teens
Here are four things your child needs to stop doing today:
1. Self-Bullying: Beating Themselves Up Over Mistakes
With the topic of bullying making the daily news, what we’re failing to talk about is something that may be even more prevalent: Self-bullying. Too many kids today have little tolerance for their mistakes and under achievements. They often beat themselves up for small things, such a bad grade in class, a missed goal on the field, or a misunderstanding with a friend.
Although a healthy dose of self-criticism can be a great motivator, some kids take it to the extreme. Too many kids treat others with more compassion than they do themselves. We need to remind teens that no one is perfect. We have to teach them the importance of practicing self-compassion. Studies have shown that self-compassion can serve as a protective barrier against the effect of trauma, peer victimization, self-harm, low self-esteem, and even depression.
2. Thinking Everyone Else’s Life is Perfect
With teens relentlessly exposed to the barrage of pervasive perfection on social media, it’s no wonder even confident, well-adjusted teens are feeling deflated and undervalued. Apps such as Instagram, which a recent #StatusofMind study found to be the most detrimental app for young people’s mental health, often unwittingly triggers kids to compare themselves to unrealistic versions of reality.
We need to equip our kids with the tools to navigate social media in a positive, healthy way rather than allowing it to serve as a benchmark in their lives. The sooner we teach our kids to push through the haze of photoshopped perfection and help them focus on their own lives and goals, the sooner they’ll be able to approach social media with a healthy attitude and embrace their own individuality.
3. Viewing Setbacks as Failures
Life is full of ups and downs. But, when you’re a 16-year-old boy who didn’t make the high school football team, or you’re an 18-year-old girl who just found out you didn’t get accepted into the college of your dreams, those downs can seem like the end of the world.
We need to teach our kids that these setbacks or “failures” are simply stepping stones in life. We need to arm them with the skill of resilience and remind them that challenges are part of life. Resilience and grit isn’t something we’re born with. Rather we learn by facing problems head-on, rising to the occasion, and learning how to bounce back after disappointment or hardship.
4. Expecting Immediate Results
If you’ve ever witnessed your teen’s reaction when they’ve misplaced their phone, you know. They’ve become all too accustomed to the immediate gratification of the Internet’s rich trove of on-the-spot information.
But, experts are saying it doesn’t stop there. Today’s teens are expecting immediate gratification in other aspects of their lives as well. From having the ability to instantly stream movies on their phone to getting minute-by-minute updates on the latest celebrity news, they crave round-the-clock information. The negative side of this high-speed era is that it’s breeding a generation of kids who are impatient. They’re more distracted, and who have shorter attention spans.
We need to help our kids understand that some things in life simply take time. We need to teach them to see the value in waiting. They need to see the value of working to achieve their goals, and pausing in life so they have time to think, reflect, regenerate and redirect—all of which are in direct conflict with their desire for immediate results.
Pressure is inevitable. But by helping our kids establish a game plan to work through and relieve the pressure they’re feeling they’ll begin to adapt, learn how to become active problem-solvers and develop healthy coping mechanisms to deal with what life throws at them.
This piece originally appeared on the author’s blog, Raising Teens Today.