An eighth grade student looks over her schedule for the upcoming week. Monday: study for the science test, go to volleyball practice from four to six, spend an hour on math homework, practice cello for the honor concert coming up, walk the dog, complete Spanish , social studies, and English worksheets. Tuesday: write an English essay, play lacrosse, do the dishes, research the social studies project coming up, practice piano and study for the geometry quiz. She has looked at only two days of her schedule and already feels overwhelmed! Sadly this is the story of many students across the nation, including myself.
Now more than ever before, teens are constantly stressed out. Teens are constantly pressured to be perfect, from their teachers, parents, and peers. Teens are constantly pushed to their limits. When is it ever okay for teens to feel helpless, and feel like this kind of pressure will never end? All that stress certainly adds up. “Stress damages virtually every kind of cognition that exists, including memory and executive function, motor skills, immune response, and ability to sleep.
Certain physical symptoms, [such as] notably repeated abdominal pain with no known cause, are an indicator of stress in children,” says the New York Times. “Kids are developing more school-related stomachaches, headaches, sleep problems, and depression [in some cases leading to suicide] than ever before,” says William Crain, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at City College of New York and the author of Reclaiming Childhood. That’s right; kids are getting sick from stress! Between homework, sports, music, clubs, extracurricular activities, looking perfect and dealing with school drama, teens are constantly under pressure.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Typical school children today report more anxiety than did child psychiatric patients in the 1950’s.” This pressure all comes from thinking that they have to be the best in everything. More and more places in society are molding our children into thinking this way. Sports are one of the main culprits of the competition. Dr. Jordan Metzl, medical director of the Sports Medicine Institute for Young Athletes claims that “Kids’ sports have become much more competitive.
In general high-level competition… is not a great thing.” When in reality, trying to be the best in everything is like trying to win 20 gold medals in your first Olympics! There’s obviously nothing wrong with wanting to do your best, but a lot of times this is taken too far. Parents often over schedule their children. Marjorie Kelley, a stay at home mom, says that she keeps her kids booked solid because she wants them to have everything she couldn’t have. “Child development experts say they see the effects of overprogramming in children and young adults, who are burned out, cannot manage their own schedules, lack creativity, or suffer identity crises and breakdowns after fast-track schedules” confirms ABC news’ Michael S. James.
Homework levels have substantially increased over the past decade or so. Harris Cooper, professor of psychology and director of the education program at Duke University, emphasizes that “Part of it, I think, is pressure from the parents with regard to their desire to have their kids be competitive for the best universities in the country.” Kids spend hours on homework that, a lot of times, isn’t beneficial to them. The “optimal” amount of homework according to the National Education Association is “no more than 10 minutes per grade level per night”. Teens have entirely too much weight on their shoulders. They hardly have time just to stop and think.
For happier, balanced, and more relaxed teens, let’s ban the pressure and stop the stress overload!