Stressed-student-1e0n26mBeing a teenager isn’t easy.  Their bodies awkwardly and rapidly transform from boys and girls to young men and women.  The demands of middle school intensify in high school — academically, socially, and emotionally — as the “light at the end of the tunnel” draws closer: Commencement — the beginning of life at college or in the real world.  Sharon Jayson opens our eyes to the scope of teen stress in America:

Teens across the USA are feeling high levels of stress that they say negatively affect every aspect of their lives, a new national survey suggests.

More than a quarter (27%) say they experience “extreme stress” during the school year, vs. 13% in the summer. And 34% expect stress to increase in the coming year.

Stressors range from school to friends, work and family. And teens aren’t always using healthy methods to cope, finds the latest Stress in America survey from the Washington, D.C.-based American Psychological Association.


Randye Hoder says some teen problems result from too much stress and are not hard to spot:

 Teenagers at risk of depression, anxiety and suicide often wear their troubles like a neon sign. Their risky behaviors—drinking too much alcohol, using illegal drugs, smoking cigarettes and skipping school—can alert parents and teachers that serious problems are afoot.


Hoder discovered other common teen behaviors that should be seriously concerning:

But a new study, published this month in the journal World Psychiatry, finds that there’s another group of adolescents who are in nearly as much danger of experiencing the same psychiatric symptoms as their high-risk peers: teens who use tons of media, don’t get enough sleep and have a sedentary lifestyle.

Of course, that may sound like a description of every teenager on the planet.

I myself seem to have two mantras these days with my 16-year-old: “Get off your phone” and “It’s really late. Go to sleep.”  But the study warns that it is teenagers who engage in all three of these practices in the extreme who are truly in jeopardy.

Because their behaviors are not usually seen as a red flag, these young people have been dubbed the “invisible risk” group by the study’s authors.


Hoder points out that sleepy teens are everywhere:

In a piece published last month on the New York Times Motherlode blog, writer and educator Jessica Lahey made the case that teens need at least nine hours of sleep a night, but often get only about seven.

To turn that around, she suggested, parents can take a number of steps, including making sure that their kids keep electronics out of the bedroom. “Laptops, smartphones and tablets emit approximately 30 to 50 lux, about half the illumination of a room light, more than enough light to affect circadian rhythms and delay the production and release of melatonin,” she noted. Lahey also encouraged exercise, explaining that people who work out for three or four 30-minute sessions a week sleep 45 minutes to an hour longer on most nights.


When life gets complicated for your teenager, it’s up to parents to simplify things for them (rather than make their lives more miserable).  Start by asking them — simply and directly — what’s wrong.  Refocusing them on their job (which is school) and their relationships (the most important being family) is the best place to start. Helping them help themselves by making sure they are eating healthy foods at home, squeezing some sort of exercise into their busy day, and checking their cell-phones with you before they head to bed (so you can check their text messages — and charge their phones) is the least parents can do.

If you think your teen is struggling, it may be time to reconnect with his or her  teachers and coaches and even the parents of friends.  And, by all means, let your pediatrician help. Sometimes all the wise advice you give gets through to them better when it comes from someone else!