Psychologist Robert Leahy recently claimed, “the average [American] high school student today has the same level of stress as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.”
High school students experience social and financial pressures. They feel stress about appearances, extracurricular activities, and the impending fear that their test scores and grades won’t set them apart from their peers when applying to colleges.
For parents, understanding their child’s stress and teaching them how to deal with pressure in life can help them learn lifelong coping skills. Here are five simple but effective ways to help your high-schooler.
1. Don’t Try to Live Your Life Through Your Child
Sure, you may have great intentions when you insist that your daughter or son pursue soccer or join a school play, but your child already knows what they’re interested in and how much time they have to spare.
It is not a parent’s responsibility to decide what a child should be interested in. If anything, forcing kids to participate in a club, activity or sport will only add stress to their lives. A high school student is mature and intelligent enough to follow their own path and become involved in something they are passionate about.
2. Study/Do Homework with Your Child
Speaking from my own experience, having a parent become directly involved in a student’s schoolwork can help them succeed. Spending time with your son or daughter making flash cards or helping them write a paper can be a way to lessen anxieties about schoolwork. This sends a message to your child that you will be there to help them understand difficult topics.
3. Remind Your Child That He or She is Valuable
Unfortunately, in a school setting, many students are not given the encouragement that they need to perform their best and acquire confidence. In classes, students may only be given criticism about their work and may only be complimented on physical characteristics or superficial attributes.
Identify your child’s strengths, such as a talent for analyzing literature or understanding difficult chemistry terms. This may be just the motivation they need to keep working hard in school. Knowing that they are valuable and have potential to succeed in life will help a high school student realize that the stress they encounter each day will serve a greater purpose later.
4. Don’t Compare Your Child to Their Peers
High school students judge themselves every day. They compare themselves to other students every day. Students exchange test scores, GPAs, and question why they don’t have the same clothes or fit in with the same clique as other students.
When parents express their disappointment in their child by comparing them to seemingly more ambitious or successful students, this diminishes a child’s confidence. Recognize that your child will never be someone else, they can only be a better version of their own self. Give your child praise and constructive criticism without bringing another person’s behavior into the conversation.
5. Be Present With Your High School Student
Leaving home in a matter of years or even months, it is important to value the time you have left with them. Many parents feel that their child does not want to spend time with them, but it’s important to be around for your child regardless. If you have a pet dog or cat, you may have noticed that they sometimes will sit in the same room as you.
They may sit for hours without jumping in your lap or circling your legs hoping for affection. Yet our pets use this close physical proximity to comfort themselves and create a closer relationship. The same goes for a parent and child. A child may not always want to converse with a parent, but simply being in the same room as your child sends the message that you are there for them if you need them, and makes it more likely they will come to you for help or advice.
The mental wellness of your child throughout high school may be threatened by social pressures, grades and time constrictions, but strengthening your relationship with your child in these ways will help them learn to manage that stress. Simply being thoughtful about what your child goes through on a daily basis will help your child succeed and achieve a healthy mental state.
Olivia Clancy is devoted to healthy living for both mind and body. She lives in Madison, WI.