Many teens manage to fill each day with a staggering load of activities: Schoolwork, sports practice, extracurricular activities, homework — juggling so much often that it often saps their energy and focus.
"Teens are feeling like they’re not achieving what they need to and that they’re blowing it,” observes Christina Burns.
At a free Forum for Parents of Teens, licensed professional counselor Christina Burns discussed how to help teens stay healthy and balanced while they pursue work and play. The forums, sponsored by McVay Counseling Center, run from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, September 11 and 18, in Germantown.
“In a survey, 55 percent of teens said that academic pressure: grades, tests, and college applications, are their number one stressor. Fifteen percent reported their number one stress comes from parental expectations and the pressure to achieve.” Time management was also a top stressor, with teens citing deadlines and overscheduling leading to a lack of sleep.
As a result, many teens become exhausted, stressed, even clinically anxious. Signs of burnout include irritability, fatigue, and falling behind in schoolwork. One in seven children under age 18 suffers from anxiety, Burns notes.
So how to make time for both responsibilities and recreation?
The key is to set priorities. The top priority should be your child’s health — spiritual, physical, and emotional health and opportunities to interact socially. “After health, the next priority is academics, followed by extracurriculars.”
If your teen is ultra-involved, sit down together and review her schedule. Using a dayplanner, chart hours of her day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Highlight necessary activities, such as school hours and dinnertime, and hours of extracurricular practices and lessons. Ask her to consider what she’s willing to give up to make time for a sport or club. Discuss pros and cons of choices, then set priorities.
Consider, says Burns, “If your teen is in three clubs yet doesn’t get his room cleaned, how will you address that with consequences?”
Help your teen build organizational skills and learn to plan ahead. A kid who is loaded with sports activities could ask for school assignments in advance, for example.
Build in time for relaxation. To claim uninterrupted downtime, set a timer for 30 minutes. Ensure that your teen eats healthy and gets enough sleep. Be aware that time spent chatting on social media often cuts into nighttime rest.
Give him a hand. Burns says you may need to “bail your teen out." Though he may be reluctant to quit the team, use your parental discretion and explain the situation to the coach. “Who isn’t willing to be the fall guy for their child?”
• Assure your child that anxiety is normal. It’s usually temporary, short-term, and not dangerous. • Anxiety becomes a problem if it occurs repeatedly and impacts a child socially or academically. • Help reduce stress. Is there a chaotic environment at home or marital conflict? Seek resolution. • Establish routines. Discuss the plan for the day and how you’ll handle any changes. • Keep calm and be consistent with consequences. • Show support. Don’t minimize a child’s tension and anxiety. • Encourage independence and self-confidence that comes with trying new things.
September 11 • Dating relationships & teen sexual activity
September 18 • Teens, Alcohol and Drugs
Location: Germantown United Methodist Church, Mike Wilson Fellowship Hall
To register, call Monica Christian at 754-7216.