Many parents don’t fully understand why the lives of their teens are so very stressful. However, the topic of stress is so important that the entire month of April is designated as National Stress Awareness Month. So let’s spend April reflecting on what causes stress in our teens and young adults.
Teenage Sleep Deprivation
Modern-day school life denies teenagers the 8-10 hours of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Brown University School of Medicine surveyed 3,000 high school students and found that they only averaged about 7.5 hours of sleep on a school night. Sleep deprivation was found to be more pronounced in boys than in girls. The sleep problem is compounded by teenage circadian rhythms that are approximately two hours behind those of adults. This turns your teenager into the night owl that you recognize and results in the hard morning task of getting your teen out of bed to get to school on time. Sleep deprivation in teens can lead to performance decline, memory lapses, mood swings, and other behavioral problems.
“Sending kids to school at 7 a.m. is the equivalent
of sending an adult to work at 4 in the morning.”
Stanford University Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
Teenage hormones and the strong emotions they release in your teen may be causing you parental stress. However, try to recall what it was like when you were a teen carrying around that burden of emotions 24/7. And it’s not only hormones – your teen may also have to deal with rapid growth spurts, acne, periods, and unreliable vocal cords. Trying to cope with these changes can trigger anxiety and depression. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study found that major depressive episodes in adolescents went from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 11.3 percent in 2014, with adolescent girls suffering more than boys.
Teens Don’t Own Their Lives
Many aspects of students’ lives are decided for them – what subjects they study, what they wear to school, what schedules they must follow. Adults have much more autonomy to do as they please, but if teenagers try it, they are regarded as being rebellious. In addition, many parents add to a teen’s stress by expecting perfection in everything. The Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment found that students find school to be more enjoyable and are more motivated to try harder when they are allowed to set their own expectations.
Struggle for Identity
The struggle to find out who they are is hard on teenagers. Peers, parents, teachers, and society are all giving them messages on how they should behave in order to feel accepted and valued. The University of Illinois Department of Psychology conducted a study of 500 adolescents and found that peer-related stress undermines their social security and identity and contributes to depression. Stressful events may include everything from a friend’s death to physical fights to not being invited to a party. Girls are more sensitive to the opinions of peers because they put more emphasis on interpersonal connectedness than do boys.
As a teenager you probably didn’t worry about joblessness and lack of financial security; you naturally expected that a well-paid job would be available to you. Unfortunately, the future job market is much more uncertain. With increasing globalization and the growing use of artificial intelligence, students in high school and college are caught up in a world where economies and labor markets are being uprooted. Cathy Davidson, wrote a book entitled Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work and Learn, and forecast that sixty-percent of students now entering grade school will eventually have jobs that have not yet been invented. While this is an exciting prospect, it makes it hard for a student to plan for the future – and this can be terrifying.
Help for Your Teenager or Young Adult is Available
This article has discussed just some of the modern day stresses placed on today’s teenagers. If your teenager or young adult is trying to cope with stressors that are causing acute anxiety, depression, or behavioral problems, Doorways is here to help you. You don’t have to struggle on your own – give us a call to find out how our support can help you and your teenager.