Over the past few years, the issue of anxiety in adolescents has become more prominent. The number of students who are stressed out, or on medication for anxiety and depression is at an all time high. In our tutoring we come across this challenge more than ever. In a recent Boston Globe article, they cite a 2011 survey at Lexington High saying that 89% of students reported that the atmosphere at the school encouraged academic competition, and 40% reported that they were under “a lot of stress”. What’s going on here?
Many adults look at adolescents and are dismissive of the difficulties they face.
After all, they are juggling a marriage, parenting, career, mortgages, college funds, and all of the other daily stresses in life. From their vantage point, kids don’t have a care in the world. Go to school, do your homework, hang out with friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, and get decent grades. The only problem with that line of thinking is that it’s inaccurate. Think about it for a second. For many of the students we work with, here is what a fairly typical day could look like for them. Get up at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for school, arrive somewhere around 8:00, and then spend the next six hours going from class to class, with a few minutes in between or at lunch to catch up with friends. Many kids are in extracurriculars or sports, so they maybe have a half hour after school before practice begins, and that will run until about 6:00 p.m. They get home around 6:30, wolf down some dinner, and then have anywhere from an hour to sometimes as much as three hours of homework to do. They blink and it’s 11:00, and they have to hit the hay and do it all over again.
This notion that kids are breezing through their days without a care in the world just isn’t true.
Throw into that mix the pressure of grades, and not just in terms of what they expect of themselves. Their teachers have expectations, and their particular social circle does as well. In our experience though, the expectations that cause students the most stress are the ones parents place on them. We have worked with many students who work incredibly hard on a project, or in studying for a test, and when they receive a B, they are made to feel like they failed. And if a C enters into the picture, watch out.
C’s have become the new F’s!
We are certainly not advocating lowering the bar for students in terms of what to aim for with grades, and at the same time it’s important to be able to praise them for hard work, and not saddle them with our own expectations. What do you think stresses students out the most? We would love to hear from you. And in part 2, we will look at this issue further. We offer unmatched tutoring in Brookline, Newton, Cambridge, Concord, Hopkinton, Lexington, Needham, Sudbury and Wellesley.