There is a lot to be stressed about as a teenager these days.

Teens are balancing a lot! Not only do they need to manage their school work, but they may also have sports, clubs, part time jobs, volunteer work, internships, family or household responsibilities–and on top of that they still also need time for a social life, and to rest!

The hours they keep are also particularly straining. Most high schools start extremely early–often around 7am, which means that students have to be up and ready to start their day long before then. And not getting enough sleep is a huge contributing factor to teen mental health issues.

And teens are definitely feeling the effects. According to the Pew Research Center, 70% of teens surveyed see anxiety as a major problem in their lives. A further twenty six percent see it as a minor problem, and only four percent of teens surveyed reported anxiety being not a problem at all. That’s a huge number of teens struggling with anxiety!

So what’s causing teens the most stress and anxiety?

When asked about the reasons behind the stress and anxiety they’re feeling, 61% of teens in the same study reported the cause to be the pressure to get good grades. Not only are they trying to stay on top of their school work on a day to day level with classwork, homework, and studying for any upcoming quizzes or exams; but they also likely have to worry about larger academic pressures such as:

  • Preparing for standardized/college placement tests
  • Determining a post-high school path
  • Applying to colleges

That’s a lot for just one person to worry about! Some warning signs that your teen is struggling to manage their stress include:

  • They are more irritable than usual
  • Their moods are more unpredictable/volatile than usual
  • Their eating habits change dramatically: either eating much more or much less than usual
  • Their sleeping habits change dramatically: either sleeping much more or much less than usual
  • They begin avoiding friends or social activities
  • They seem to be getting sick more frequently than usual
  • They seem to be having difficulty with concentration
  • They complain frequently of stomach aches or headaches

How can you help your teen manage their school stress?

Help them get organized

What are their daily responsibilities? What are their weekly responsibilities? How are they going to stay on top of things to make sure nothing falls through the cracks? Do they have a planner of their own? (or a calendar/reminder app on their phone?) Can you check in with them weekly to go over what appointments they have? Do you keep a family calendar up in a common area? As adults, we have had lots of practice figuring out how to get organized, but teens are just starting to learn to balance and juggle many things at once.

Help them map out a support system

Your teen has a lot to manage, but they don’t have to manage it all on their own. While you won’t be the right person for every problem, you can help them figure out who that is. Who is someone at their school they can go to for help or college application questions and support? Do they need a tutor in any particular subject? Can you support them as they begin counseling to learn better stress management skills? Your teen might be so overwhelmed that they don’t even know how to start. Remind them they can come to you, and if you can’t help them you’ll help them find someone who can.

Help them nourish themselves properly

Teens often don’t eat enough–they need a lot of energy to keep them going throughout the day. And given how early they have to get started, it’s very common for teens to skip at least one meal every day. They often eat at weird hours because of school schedules and after school activities. So it’s likely that your teen is not eating enough or things that properly nourish them throughout the day. You don’t need to pack their lunch for them (though if you have the time, that’s a sure way to make sure they’re packing something that will be filling instead of just whatever they find!). But you can consider their specific obstacles as you shop for groceries. Maybe stock up on small easy things they can grab on the go and have in their bag throughout the day. Something like protein bars that will fill them up and help them concentrate better than if they were running on empty.

If you need help supporting your teen, you’re not alone! Our clinicians can help you come up with a plan to deal with them that’s specific to your situation.