Around here, in Orange County, it is a normal thing to keep kids very busy. We enroll our kids in all sorts of extra-curricular activities. They play one, two or even three different sports. They might be part of Girl or Boy Scouts. They attend church related activities. The kids also have a Disneyland Pass, spend time with friends, and are encouraged to take the most difficult classes possible. The pressure related to school is all about getting into the best college, and sometimes this pressure starts in middle school.
While some kids thrive on this, for others it adds a lot of stress. Even though most of the above-listed activities are fun (except school), too much is still stressful. It is really, really important for you to teach your kids how to manage stress. You have to show them that saying no even to good things is important for your mental health. We need down time (media-free downtime).
If you’d like to see your teen have less anxiety, consider taking one day a week and resting. Turn off the electronics, don’t go anywhere with a schedule, and slow down. At first you will get a lot of resistance like, “I can’t have my phone off. Someone might text me about homework.” Don’t buy into that. Everyone needs to learn how to manage their time and when they can be contacted. Eventually your teen will learn a positive coping skill (how to rest) that will remain invaluable for the rest of their life.
This starts with you. You’re the one who has to lead by example. You’re the one who has to turn off the TV during dinner and say no when your sister calls to see if you can go shopping. Teens are starting to formulate their own values and opinions, but they’re still heavily influenced by you. I know this is hard. I completely agree. It’s really hard for me too and I’m the one preaching it!
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT