It’s a fact. Our kids are statistically far more stressed out and anxious than past generations. With experts mulling around the possibilities, there still isn’t a cut and dry answer as to why.
Whether it’s societal influences such as social media pressuring our kids to strive for perfection, outside forces such as school and homework, unrelenting pressure to keep up with their friends, the desire to measure up in their parents’ eyes, or a compilation of several factors, too many kids today are pushing themselves beyond the limits toward an invisible finish line they feel compelled to reach.
In some cases, the pressure kids face, however, is triggered by an inner monologue that is neither constructive nor positive. As a parent whose kids oftentimes measure themselves against unrealistically high standards, I can relate.
Is it me or am I the only parent who has to talk my kids down from the mountain of self-inflicted pressure that sometimes sucks the life right out of them?
I’m the one discouraging them from taking that third AP class in school. I’m the one encouraging them to slow down, take a break, relax and spend more time with their friends. I’m the one reminding them that, as much as I want them to be successful, their happiness and, more importantly, their well-being is far more important to me. I’m the one trying to convince them that they’re doing great, that they should be proud of themselves and not to worry about what others are doing.
Having had so many conversations with other parents, I’ve come to the realization that I’m not alone. Too many kids today are putting unnecessary pressure on themselves and, whether we choose to admit it or not, that pressure holds the power to compromise their happiness and, in some cases, their health.
With my own kids, I’ve realized that they need my continual guidance and positive influence to help them maintain balance in their lives as well as a healthy attitude and perspective to keep the pressure at bay. When I notice the scale starting to tip, I strive to reel them back, point them in a more positive, constructive direction, and help them restore balance.
Interestingly, of all the conversations and pep talks I’ve had with my kids through the years, I’ve realized that rather than encouraging them to do things to maintain balance in their lives, I’ve found myself discouraging them from doing things far more frequently. Each one is damaging in itself – damaging to their happiness, self-esteem, and well-being – however, combined, they hold the power to stifle their ability to thrive.
Whether your child is dealing with a mountain of pressure from outside or societal influences or they’re putting far too much pressure on themselves to measure up, here’s four things your child needs to stop doing today to take the pressure off:
Beating Themselves Up Over Mistakes
In a world where bullying and cyberbullying seem to be making the news almost daily, what we’re failing to talk about is something that may be even more prevalent among kids today than bullying… self-bullying. Essentially, kids today are statistically more critical of themselves than past generations.
They have little tolerance for their mistakes, under achievements and missteps often beating themselves up for little things such a bad grade in class, a missed goal on the field or an argument with a friend.
Although a healthy dose of self-criticism can be a great motivator to help foster improvement in ourselves, quite often kids today take self-criticism to the extreme. In fact, 80 percent of kids treat others with far more compassion than they do themselves.
We need to remind our kids that no one is perfect – even the brightest, smartest kids make mistakes. And, aside from teaching them to avoid comparing themselves to others, which can be extremely detrimental, we need to also teach our kids the value of practicing self-kindness and self-compassion. Studies have shown that self-compassion can serve as a protective barrier against the effect of trauma, peer victimization, depression, self-harm and even low self-esteem. Other studies show that kids who are self-compassionate and cut themselves a little slack when they mess up have greater motivation, they don’t let themselves off the hook for bad behavior, but rather confront it head on, and they don’t get caught up in selfishness or self-pity, but actually show greater compassion toward others.
Thinking Everyone Else’s Life is Perfect
It’s far too prevalent in our society. With kids today glued to their cell phones and social media, the façade of pervasive perfection is enough to leave any steady, well-adjusted child feeling deflated, undervalued, and less than perfect. In fact, a recent #StatusofMind study in which 1500 kids were surveyed, found that Instagram, while beneficial for self-expression, is the most detrimental social networking app for young people’s mental health followed by Snapchat. Instagram triggers kids to compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and photoshopped versions of reality.
We need to equip our kids with the knowledge and tools to navigate social media in a positive, healthy way rather than allowing it to serve as a benchmark in their lives.
No one’s life is perfect. Everyone, regardless of how perfect they may appear to be on social media, has their own set of challenges and flaws. The sooner we teach our kids to push through the haze of photoshopped perfection often found on social media and focus on their own lives, goals, standards, and ideology, the sooner they’ll be able to approach what they view on social media with a healthy attitude, step away from the barrage of social media pressure and embrace their own uniqueness with all their wonderful, perfect imperfections.
Viewing Setbacks as Failures
Life is full of ups and downs. But, when you’re a 16-year-old boy who didn’t make the high school football team or you’re an 18-year-old girl who just found out you didn’t get accepted into the college of your dreams, those “downs” can seem like the end of the world. What we need to teach our kids is that these setbacks, or what kids might consider failures, are simply stepping stones in life. There’s no such thing as failures, only lessons.
We need to arm our kids with a critically important skill – resilience. Remind them that challenges are part of life and that resilience isn’t something we’re born with. It’s something we learn by facing challenges head-on, rising to the occasion and learning how to bounce back after disappointment or hardship.
As parents, we need to teach our kids that even when their dreams appear to be going up in smoke right before their very eyes, oftentimes among the ashes lays a small seedling of opportunity waiting to be cultivated.
The sooner our kids learn to be resilient, the sooner they’ll be equipped to readjust their compass and move forward in life even when things don’t go exactly according to plan.
Expecting Immediate Results
If you’ve ever witnessed the reaction of your kids when they’ve misplaced their phone or when the Internet is down, you know. They’ve become all too accustomed to checking emails, texts, and social media finding it nearly unbearable when they don’t have access to the Internet’s rich trove of information and social media updates. Our kid’s generation is most notably, the “immediate gratification generation.”
But, experts are saying it doesn’t stop there. Today’s kids are expecting immediate gratification in other aspects of their lives as well. From wanting to know their grades instantaneously after taking a test to staying updated, minute-by-minute, on the latest celebrity news, they crave round-the-clock information.
No doubt this era of fast-access has its share of benefits; however, the negative side is that it’s breeding a generation of kids who are becoming increasingly impatient, more distracted and who have shorter attention spans. When our kids view fast-paced, slick results as the norm, the idea of waiting for anything stresses them out. We need to prepare them for the inevitable realization that some things in life simply take time.
We need to help our kids take the pressure off by helping them see the value in waiting, working to achieve their goals, no matter how long it takes, and pausing in life to give them much-needed time to think, reflect, regenerate and redirect, if needed – all of which are in direct conflict with their desire for immediate results. Life can be stressful. But, when our kids are moving at race pace it’s easy for them to lose sight of where they are, where they’re headed and what they’re striving for.
Pressure is inevitable. And, sadly, the older our kids get, the more pressure they’ll be challenged to endure. The trick is to help our kids learn to manage that pressure in a productive and healthy manner. By keeping life and the pressure they’re feeling in perspective and helping them establish a game plan to work through and relieve the pressure they’re feeling they’ll begin to adapt, learn how to become active problem-solvers and develop healthy coping mechanisms to deal with what life throws at them.
Pressure can burst a pipe, but it can also produce a diamond.
Raising Teens Today