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Is Your Teen Overwhelmed?

Many teens are overwhelmed in today’s culture (about one third). Constant activity exhausts them. The activity isn’t always physical. They can appear to be resting, but they are still stimulating their mind with screens. There is literally no downtime. Between screens, scheduled activities, and a highly competitive culture, yes, our overwhelmed teenagers are everywhere.

Overwhelmed teen girl sitting head down feeling depressed
Image courtesy of Ambro at

In an America where we feel pressure to give our kids every edge, it’s hard to discern what is important and what isn’t. I’m a mom, and I struggle with this too. We seem to think everything is important. We’re all worried about building their resume so they can look good to colleges. We love our kids and we want to give them the opportunity to build a good future. But what does that mean? Is a good future just career opportunities? What about learning to balance passions with work? What about making sure adolescents learn self-control with how to budget time? It’s very hard to help teenagers navigate their future in this post-modern era.

Are Overwhelmed Teens Really Set Up for Success?

What if we spend so much time making sure the chance to succeed exists that we forget to teach our overwhelmed teenagers what to actually do with the opportunity?  What if they get to the college of their (or maybe your) dreams but then they aren’t mature enough to make the most of their education?

Teens need to learn some very essential skills growing up.  They need to learn how to function in a working environment (usually accomplished through school and first jobs).  We are really good at focusing on that.  However, there is a lot more to being a successful adult than just knowing how to get a good job.  Your adolescent has to also learn how to take care of himself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  It’s important to have a child who knows how to make good food and exercise choices.  Your child has to know how to cope with challenging emotional situations.  You want your teen to have a relationship with their faith.  It’s also important for your child to know how to build and maintain friendships. There are so many facets to a “successful life.”

What Can I Do to Help My Teen?

If you find your teenager is feeling overwhelmed all the time, it’s time to get back to basics.  Chances are there is too much emphasis on developing one area of their person.  Perhaps they are playing a high level of sports that requires 20+ hours per week of their time.  Unless your child is going pro (and they most likely aren’t), that’s excessive.  That’s too much emphasis on one thing.  Or, in other cases teens experience overwhelm because they have 5 AP classes.  That’s also too much emphasis on one area.  Balance in life coupled with knowing how to achieve goals is ideal. Work on balance. Work on helping your teenager think through what matters for THEIR life instead of what their friends are all doing.

A Personal Story of an Overwhelmed Teen

I know one young man who placed all his emphasis on developing the ability to work.  He took multiple AP classes and went to USC.  That’s quite an accomplishment.  However, when he got there, the rest of life caught up with him.  He didn’t know how to relate to people without succumbing to peer pressure. Between partying in college and not knowing how to handle it, he failed out. So, he ended up at community college and living at home. Likewise, he spent the next two years catching up on maturing in the other areas of life. Finally, he transferred to LMU, graduated and got a good job. He ended up fine, but he had a massive struggle because he worked too hard on one area of life throughout his adolescence.

Wrapping It Up

So, if your teen is consistently overwhelmed, take a look at the balance in their life.  See whether they might be working too much at one thing and neglecting another.  Help them establish goals to be a whole person instead of just one dimensional. Hopefully that helps, but if they continue to feel overwhelmed, please feel free to reach out. Usually overwhelmed adolescents are simply too busy, but sometimes there is something else going on. In those cases, therapy can be helpful.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT