How to get your life started struggling teens

It’s almost impossible to wake my 17-year-old son up for school. He says that he wants my help getting up, but in the mornings, I have to threaten to leave without him to get him moving. We leave the house angry and out of sorts. How can I get him out of bed without having these daily battles?

The adolescent brain would be much happier if school started at ten or eleven in the morning (if at all!). Instead of falling asleep at a reasonable hour that lets teens wake up cheerful and rested, many get their second wind at 10:00 p.m., staying up late and waking up cranky and out of sorts.

Here’s my advice:

• Find wake up alternatives. Many kids tune out a well-meaning parent’s efforts to get them to rise and shine, going back to sleep over and over. Others find it jarring to awaken to the piercing buzz of an alarm, launching them out of bed in a foul mood. Perhaps your son wants to waken to music; easy enough these days with alarm clocks that work off an iPod. Or he may want to gradually wake up with a clock that slowly introduces light into the room. Encourage your son to look for ways to awaken that aren’t dependent on you.

• Give him a problem. If you are the only one who cares whether your son wakes up on time, you are going to come across as desperate and needy each morning. Instead, help him identify reasons for getting up on time that matter to him, so that he sees you as an ally who helps when he’s struggling with grogginess, rather than an enemy who is yanking him out of his warm and cozy bed.

• Rule out other issues. Teens who are depressed find it difficult to get motivated to go to school. Those who are anxious may want to hide under the covers where they feel safe. And kids who are using alcohol, pot or other substances can also demonstrate significant difficulties with rolling out of the bed in the morning. Make sure your son is legitimately tired, and that there are no other factors influencing his sluggishness.

• Don’t fuel the drama. The less you take your son’s behavior personally, the better able you’ll be to deal with him calmly. When kids are foggy and irritable, they to lash out at those they love. Don’t engage with him or defend yourself when he’s trying to blame you for his difficulties getting up. It will only make things worse.

• Don’t talk too much! A sleepy adolescent is not capable of intelligent conversation or thoughtful reflection. Avoid reminding your son how foolish it was to stay up late the night before. Give up on having a meaningful discussion about how to make the mornings go more smoothly. While it will be important to strategize a new plan, the time do that is not when he’s rushed, angry, or barely able to function.

• Wake up his brain. Play some loud rock and roll to help your son get out of his sleepy state. Offer him a protein shake or a few bites of breakfast to help give him a jump start. Some kids need nourishment to help them get moving in the morning when they haven’t eaten since the evening before.

• Let go. Some parents have discovered that until their youngster suffers the consequences of sleeping through the alarm, they simply won’t make the effort to wake up on their own. Let your son know in advance that you are no longer willing to engage in power struggles with him in the morning, and that you will try once to wake him up and then he’s on his own. Missing the bus or having to walk because you’ve left for work may be what it takes for him to start taking responsibility for waking up without relying on you.

While you can require a younger teen to shut off his computer and hand in his cell phone, at seventeen, your son is nearly an adult who may soon be out on his own. Help him move toward independence by taking responsibility for waking up, offering support but relinquishing control.

Do you have a question for the Parent Coach? Send it to [email protected] and you could be featured in an upcoming column.

Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected. She is a family therapist, parent coach, and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting. To learn more, visit her Facebook page or sign up for her free newsletter.

Help your teenager self-isolate and not contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

How to get your life started struggling teens

Teens are not made for isolation, which makes COVID-19 especially hard on them. Here’s how to help your teenager to see the bigger picture.

Parents everywhere are struggling to get their teenagers and college students to “shelter-in-place.” Teens are not made for isolation, which makes COVID-19 especially hard on them—and it makes them difficult to control.

One of my friends is coming unglued. “My kids keep skating around rules and being with friends every time I close my office door to work.” She has two college students home and a big corporate job she’s got to keep doing. She’s trying to care for elderly in-laws, and her daughter needs medication that she’s having trouble securing. “I feel like I should be able to control them. I’m trying. But my anxiety is so heavy. I’m emotionally exhausted.”

Social isolation is hard for humans of all ages. But because teenagers and young adults are more attuned to social status than the rest of us, it is even more profoundly distressing for them.

In addition, their hard-wired attunement to social status makes them super touchy about whether or not they are being treated like children. This means that they feel infantilized when ordered to shelter-in-place.

What can we do to encourage teens to comply with social-distancing measures?

We need to work with their existing motivations. Teens are unlikely to be persuaded by (brilliant! logical! passionate!) arguments that conflict with their innate, developmental motives.

Let’s start with their high motivation to get out from under our control.

We can work with this existing motivation by treating them like competent young adults rather than little kids. For example, we can:

  • Expect them to contribute to our household in meaningful ways. They can help with meal prep and household cleaning. Our kids assist with the cleaning by vacuuming and wiping down the counters. Keeping conflict low amid tight quarters is a meaningful contribution. Planning fun activities for the family to do together might be the most essential contribution of all!
  • Allowing them to manage themselves, their own schoolwork, and their other responsibilities without nagging or cajoling. This does not mean that we won’t be engaged with them. It does mean that we give them space to operate freely within the limits we agree to as a family.
  • Asking them to help us with our work to the extent that they can. “My kids keep interrupting me on Zoom calls for stupid sh*t,” a friend texted me, frustrated to the brink. Even older teens (and spouses!) need us to be clear about how their constant interruptions affect us. Explain rather than accuse: “I feel embarrassed and stressed when I’m on a video call, and you keep poking your head in to ask questions,” rather than, “It is inconsiderate and selfish of you to keep interrupting my meetings.”
  • Using non-controlling, non-directive language. For example, ask questions instead of telling them what to do. My all-time favorite question is “What’s your plan?” As in: “What’s your plan for getting some exercise today?” This makes it clear that they are still in control of their own behavior, and it helps put them in touch with their own motivations and intentions.
  • Acknowledge that all of this is so hard. Many students coming home from school are experiencing significant losses right now. Their feelings of grief, anxiety, stress, and isolation are hard to cope with. And also: One of the great lessons of adulthood is that they can do hard things.

Tap Into Their High Attunement to the Social World

We can also tap into their high attunement to the social world by emphasizing how their lives have a purpose, meaning, and impact on other people. Here are some talking points:

  • You are not a passive actor here, along for the ride. Your actions are directly affecting the course of this crisis. We are wondering: What do you genuinely care most about in this crisis?
  • Who can you help, and who are you concerned that you might harm? How can you use your skills to help the world right now?
  • Your grandchildren are going to ask you about the role you played during this pandemic. What will you tell them?

Above all, help them see that this situation is not about what they want or expect from life. It’s about what life is expecting from them right now. We expect them to rise to the occasion; to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

There are incredible, urgent life lessons here. We are teaching our kids both directly and through our own example how to take responsibility—not just for ourselves and our immediate family, but for our local and global community, as well.

We are all being called to demonstrate our character and commitment to others and to the greater good. Our young people are being called, too. Let’s give them the opportunity to step up.

How to get your life started struggling teens

COVID-19 has turned our worlds upside down. With schools closed and families sheltering in place, one day can run into the next … and the next. So it’s no surprise that your teen is struggling to stick to a routine.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

It might be tempting to let your adolescent stay up late, sleep until noon and deal with the day’s schoolwork when they get around to it. (After all, the last thing you need right now is another battle of wills.)

But routines are worth fighting for, says pediatric psychologist Kathryn Jones, PhD. “They can help teens establish some predictability and a sense of control,” she says.

And when everything else feels totally out of control, that’s a big deal.

Here’s how you can help your teen sketch out a schedule that works for your family.

Design a daily schedule

Too soon, your teen will be an adult venturing out into the world. Giving them a chance to design their own routine now is valuable practice for the future, Dr. Jones says.

“Talk to teens about what they think will work best for them. Developing that awareness will be helpful when they eventually leave home.”

She recommends focusing on the nonnegotiable stuff. “Things like schoolwork, exercise, chores, sleep. What do they need to accomplish?” she says. “You can work with them to develop a routine that makes sure those things get done every day.”

Aim to do things at roughly the same time each day. That doesn’t mean your teen has to set the alarm for 6 a.m. just because they used to when school was open. But try to stick to a (mostly) regular bedtime, wake time and learning schedule, she says. “Talk together to come up with a plan that works for your family.”

Take a break

Living through a global pandemic is distracting, to say the least. To focus on classwork, teens should plan a stretch of uninterrupted time they can devote to school.

Still, we all need a minute to clear our heads. Dr. Jones recommends scheduling breaks into the school day for your teen to connect with friends or do something creative, like drawing or listening to music.

Lots of teens do well with a time-management tool called the Pomodoro Technique®, she says: “Plan to work for a set amount of time, say 30 minutes, then take a scheduled 10-minute break. This can really help teens who are struggling with procrastination or anxiety.”

Healthy routines are flexible

While routines are reassuring, some flexibility is fine, says Dr. Jones. Maybe your child plans to focus on math mid-day but discovers all her friends are getting together for a video chat during lunch hour. Or maybe you agree on no texting until after “school,” but your son is stumped by his chemistry homework and wants to reach out to a friend for help.

“Don’t stick with a schedule that isn’t working,” she says.

Tweak the schedule until you land on something that works. “There are things that have to get done, but you can be a little flexible on the specific timing as long as they meet their goals,” she says.

Teen sleep tips

Many teens are natural night owls. But at any age, sleep is important for physical and mental health, so make sure your young adult is getting sufficient shut-eye.

These habits can help kids get the sleep they need:

  • Be consistent: Stick to a consistent bedtime and wake time. (Most teens need 8 to 10 hours per night.)
  • Bye-phone:Avoid electronics before bed. If your teen must use a gadget in the evening, try an app that filters out blue light, which can be stimulating.
  • Wind down: Before bed, try a quiet activity like reading.
  • See the light: Try to get natural light in the morning. Go for a walk or eat breakfast near a sunny window.
  • Move it: Get regular exercise.
  • Don’t nap: Avoid naps longer than 45 minutes or after 5 p.m.
  • Use your bed for sleeping: Stake out another area to do schoolwork or lounge around during the day. (This helps your brain remember that bed = sleep.)
  • Breathe in, breathe out: Use relaxation techniques to help you fall asleep. People old and young are feeling extra stress and anxiety right now. To calm a racing mind, try tools like deep breathing, mindfulness apps or progressively squeezing and releasing your muscles, starting at your toes and working to your head.

How to handle limit-testing teens

Routines look great on paper. But what if you’re getting pushback from your moody adolescent as you try to maintain a normal schedule?

In some ways, that pushback is a good thing — a dose of normalcy in the midst of a totally abnormal situation. “Testing limits is part of being an adolescent,” Dr. Jones says.

That doesn’t mean you have to brace for daily combat. Pick your battles: “Set clear expectations about what’s not OK — sneaking out, lying to you — and decide together, in advance, what the consequences will be for breaking those rules,” Dr. Jones says. “At the same time, figure out what you can let go of.”

And remember that these are weird times, and teens — like the rest of us — are doing their best. “Try to focus on the positives, and remind yourself that things aren’t going to go perfectly,” Dr. Jones adds. “Thinking they will is only going to cause you additional stress.”

How to get your life started struggling teens

In elementary school, kids look up to their parents. But during adolescence? Not so much.

“Teenagers rebel because they want to be different from their parents, plain and simple,” says Sean Grover, licensed psychotherapist and author of “When Kids Call the Shots: How to Seize Control from Your Darling Bully and Enjoy Being a Parent Again.” “As teens struggle to establish their own unique identity, they often reject their parents in the process. This is healthy and necessary for them to develop a strong sense of self.”

The teen years don’t have to be all eye-rolling and slamming doors, though. When parents approach adolescence from a healthy place and listen with an open mind, it is possible to maintain a positive and strong relationship with your teen.

Here are some tips to help facilitate that:

Tip #1: Don’t wait until it’s too late

Start open lines of communication early. If you wait until your child has entered full-on rebellion mode, it’ll be much harder to get things under control.

“Establishing a family culture of mutual respect and keeping communication open from an early age will help with the teen years,” Grover says. “Don’t lean heavily on punishments, as a top-down parenting model will backfire in adolescence big time.”

Grover suggests modeling mindfulness and including your child in decisions that involve the whole family from when they’re young.

Tip #2: Practice what you preach

Modeling the behavior you hope to see in your child speaks louder than any lecture ever could.

“Parents who act as good role models for their children are secretly teaching them how to be a good friend,” says New York City-based psychotherapist Liz Morrison, LCSW. “This, in turn, can help teens choose healthy, positive friendships where they will get a reciprocated relationship with their peer. Additionally, when parents encourage open communication, it can provide a safe space to talk about peer influence.”

Tip #3: Give your teen some control

Want to connect with your teen? Switch roles.

“A great way to facilitate connection with your child is through teen-led family time, where your teen gets to pick the activity and the parents oblige, which is a change in experience for everyone,” says Lindsey Golomb, a family counselor at Arbit Counseling in Washington, D.C. “Teens want independence, and parents should foster this by giving them control when possible.”

Tip #4: Listen and be open

Of course you have a lot to say, but listening to your child will yield much greater rewards than talking.

“It’s important to listen more than you talk and maintain a healthy curiosity,” Grover says. “Don’t be quick to judge, talk about yourself or share a cautionary tales, as that will come across as not trusting your kid or having confidence in them.”

20 questions to ask teens

So where do you start? If you feel like your teen has drifted from you or you want to start opening lines of communication early on, try asking these 20 questions that will get your teen talking and build your relationship in the process.

Ask them about their friends

It goes without saying that you want to know who your child is hanging out with, but military-style interrogations are a guaranteed way to get your teen to shut down fast. Instead of coming from a place of suspicion, be genuinely curious about your teen’s world and the people who inhabit it.

Some questions to ask:

1. Why are you friends with so-and-so?

2. Do you feel good about your friendship with him or her?

3. What kind of things do you like to do together?

“These questions will help parents get a better understanding of whether or not their child’s friendship is a positive or negative influence in their life,” says Morrison. “If you determine that the friendship is more of a bad influence, you can then ask follow up questions.”

Two follow-up questions Morrison suggests are:

4. What will you do if this person makes you do something you don’t want to do?

5. How do you think this person will impact your life?

Ask them about school

Teenagers are spent when they come home from school, so expecting them to give you a dissertation on their day after a generic question is unrealistic. Instead, get specific.

“I’ve learned that I’m rarely going to get much of a response when I say to my daughter: ‘How was school?’” says New York City mom Rebecca Owens.

So, instead, when speaking to her 16-year-old about her day and school in general, Owens asks more detailed questions, such as:

6. Who is your favorite teacher this year?

7. Who is your least favorite teacher this year?

8. What’s your all-time favorite class?

9. What’s your least favorite class?

10. Did anything funny happen with [friend] at school today?

11. What’s your favorite lunch to have at school?

“When all else fails, I always ask my daughter what she had for lunch, if she bought, or about her all-time favorite school lunches,” says Owens. “It isn’t super probing, and I get a small peek into her day.”

Light-hearted questions

A good chunk of many teens’ lives revolve around pop culture and frivolity, so why not ask about that? Not only is your child more likely to talk if it’s about something they’re genuinely interested in (and don’t feel put on the spot), you may just remember what it’s like to be in their shoes.

“It’s so important to keep a sense of humor when talking with your teen,” says Grover. “Be playful and open, and your child will reward you with the same attitude. Getting information and providing strong leadership doesn’t have to be done so through a dictatorship.”

Light-hearted questions to bring up:

12. What’s your favorite app?

13. What’s your favorite filter on social media?

14. What’s your favorite TV show?

15. Who’s your celebrity crush and why?

16. What’s your favorite band/singer?

17. What’s your favorite song of all time?

Big questions

Sometimes the time and place is ripe for getting your teen to really talk. The important thing is to be cognizant of these rare situations, and, still, to allow things to happen organically.

“I had the best talk with my son recently on a long car ride,” says Keri Peterson, of Wheat Ridge, Colorado. “I was hoping we’d get to talk more than we normally do, but I didn’t want to force anything. We covered so many big topics — marriage, death, family — and to be honest, I’m not even sure how it happened! My son was in the mood to talk, so I just sort of followed his lead.”

Big questions to consider:

18. Do you want to get married one day?

19. What do you think happens when we die?

20. Do you think you have enough support at home? If not, how can we change that?

And if your child is the one-word type, don’t worry; other forms of communication exist.

“If your teen doesn’t like talking, think about other ways to communicate,” says Golomb. “Some kids will ‘talk’ more through art or through writing journal messages to each other. The important thing is that you’re listening in every way you can.”

How to get your life started struggling teens

COVID-19 has turned our worlds upside down. With schools closed and families sheltering in place, one day can run into the next … and the next. So it’s no surprise that your teen is struggling to stick to a routine.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

It might be tempting to let your adolescent stay up late, sleep until noon and deal with the day’s schoolwork when they get around to it. (After all, the last thing you need right now is another battle of wills.)

But routines are worth fighting for, says pediatric psychologist Kathryn Jones, PhD. “They can help teens establish some predictability and a sense of control,” she says.

And when everything else feels totally out of control, that’s a big deal.

Here’s how you can help your teen sketch out a schedule that works for your family.

Design a daily schedule

Too soon, your teen will be an adult venturing out into the world. Giving them a chance to design their own routine now is valuable practice for the future, Dr. Jones says.

“Talk to teens about what they think will work best for them. Developing that awareness will be helpful when they eventually leave home.”

She recommends focusing on the nonnegotiable stuff. “Things like schoolwork, exercise, chores, sleep. What do they need to accomplish?” she says. “You can work with them to develop a routine that makes sure those things get done every day.”

Aim to do things at roughly the same time each day. That doesn’t mean your teen has to set the alarm for 6 a.m. just because they used to when school was open. But try to stick to a (mostly) regular bedtime, wake time and learning schedule, she says. “Talk together to come up with a plan that works for your family.”

Take a break

Living through a global pandemic is distracting, to say the least. To focus on classwork, teens should plan a stretch of uninterrupted time they can devote to school.

Still, we all need a minute to clear our heads. Dr. Jones recommends scheduling breaks into the school day for your teen to connect with friends or do something creative, like drawing or listening to music.

Lots of teens do well with a time-management tool called the Pomodoro Technique®, she says: “Plan to work for a set amount of time, say 30 minutes, then take a scheduled 10-minute break. This can really help teens who are struggling with procrastination or anxiety.”

Healthy routines are flexible

While routines are reassuring, some flexibility is fine, says Dr. Jones. Maybe your child plans to focus on math mid-day but discovers all her friends are getting together for a video chat during lunch hour. Or maybe you agree on no texting until after “school,” but your son is stumped by his chemistry homework and wants to reach out to a friend for help.

“Don’t stick with a schedule that isn’t working,” she says.

Tweak the schedule until you land on something that works. “There are things that have to get done, but you can be a little flexible on the specific timing as long as they meet their goals,” she says.

Teen sleep tips

Many teens are natural night owls. But at any age, sleep is important for physical and mental health, so make sure your young adult is getting sufficient shut-eye.

These habits can help kids get the sleep they need:

  • Be consistent: Stick to a consistent bedtime and wake time. (Most teens need 8 to 10 hours per night.)
  • Bye-phone:Avoid electronics before bed. If your teen must use a gadget in the evening, try an app that filters out blue light, which can be stimulating.
  • Wind down: Before bed, try a quiet activity like reading.
  • See the light: Try to get natural light in the morning. Go for a walk or eat breakfast near a sunny window.
  • Move it: Get regular exercise.
  • Don’t nap: Avoid naps longer than 45 minutes or after 5 p.m.
  • Use your bed for sleeping: Stake out another area to do schoolwork or lounge around during the day. (This helps your brain remember that bed = sleep.)
  • Breathe in, breathe out: Use relaxation techniques to help you fall asleep. People old and young are feeling extra stress and anxiety right now. To calm a racing mind, try tools like deep breathing, mindfulness apps or progressively squeezing and releasing your muscles, starting at your toes and working to your head.

How to handle limit-testing teens

Routines look great on paper. But what if you’re getting pushback from your moody adolescent as you try to maintain a normal schedule?

In some ways, that pushback is a good thing — a dose of normalcy in the midst of a totally abnormal situation. “Testing limits is part of being an adolescent,” Dr. Jones says.

That doesn’t mean you have to brace for daily combat. Pick your battles: “Set clear expectations about what’s not OK — sneaking out, lying to you — and decide together, in advance, what the consequences will be for breaking those rules,” Dr. Jones says. “At the same time, figure out what you can let go of.”

And remember that these are weird times, and teens — like the rest of us — are doing their best. “Try to focus on the positives, and remind yourself that things aren’t going to go perfectly,” Dr. Jones adds. “Thinking they will is only going to cause you additional stress.”

How to get your life started struggling teens

Imagine this. You’re looking at a whole year of report cards from your son or daughter’s freshman year of high school. And you’re not pleased. What now?

How to get your life started struggling teens

As families trade the tricky middle school years for high school, new challenges present themselves. Teens begin to consider life beyond high school and the prospect of college admissions. Parents worry that their kids may step off the academic path. Or, perhaps worse, never get on it in the first place.

Ideally, of course, teens hit the ground running in their freshman year of high school. Cecilia Castellano, vice provost for strategic enrollment planning at Bowling Green State University in Northwest Ohio, often tells parents that students should make every effort to start out strong. “The grades and credits earned during a student’s freshman year will impact the overall academic record and can make it more difficult for a student to overcome a difficult start,” she says.

However, Castellano is quick to point out that a student can overcome a rocky first year. Significant improvements during the rest of high school can have a positive effect on college admissions. “Typically, colleges and universities are looking at the totality of the academic record. And skilled admissions professionals will recognize improvements,” says Castellano.

This is great news for students who take a “not-so-serious” attitude during their freshman year of high school.

So what’s a parent to do to support their teenager?

3 Suggestions for a Struggling High School Freshman:

1. Take a breath.

Lisa Damour, psychologist and author of the bestselling books, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Saving Our Daughters from Drowning in Stress and Anxiety, advises parents and teens to first take a deep breath when they’re looking at a less-than-stellar year freshman year of high school. “We tend to talk about college like there are only 20 good colleges, which is not helpful or accurate. There are more than 4,000 colleges in this country, and there are excellent colleges at every level,” says Damour. “Reassure your teenagers that they will have many options.”

2. Set realistic expectations.

Castellano says that “setting realistic expectations is important.” Parents should talk with their teens about goals for high school and planning for post-high school.” Castellano says that with her own three daughters, she focused on getting them to try their best both academically and personally. She also reminds parents that not all students are ready for college directly from high school. And there are ample alternative paths.

3. Help your teen take ownership of their choices.

Still, teens will have more options if they step up their academics to meet their own potential, and their choices about how to spend their time now will affect their access to choices about colleges and careers later. Parents, in conveying this message, should take a “diagnostic rather than punitive” approach with their teens, advises Damour. In other words, make it clear that you’re on the same team as your child.

You can lovingly say to your teen, “You have all the power here. We’re rooting for you to have all the options you can. But you’re the one ultimately calling the shots,” suggests Damour.

If need be, parents can help teens figure out what got in the way of a successful year at school. And parents can help develop a plan going forward, says Damour. Castellano agrees, reminding parents that “in some cases, just a readjustment of expectations, study habits, and time management may help smooth out or improve the academic performance.”

How to get your life started struggling teens

Teens, though, are the only ones who can turn plans into action. If your child has gotten off to a difficult start in their freshman year of high school, all is not lost. In fact, if handled correctly, high school freshman struggles can be a valuable way to learn how to be successful for the remainder of the high school years. Most importantly, your child will learn that despite the inevitable stumbling blocks along the way, there are many paths to a bright future.

Sara Lindberg is a school counselor and writer whose work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Role Reboot, and elsewhere.

How to get your life started struggling teensWould you work a highly demanding, fast-paced job Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., take a small break, then work another job that requires intense focus both mentally and physically from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.? Let’s say the pay sucked. Advancement was dependent on performance, and your coworkers were sometimes enemies. In addition, you had only 20 minutes to eat lunch in a loud, chaotic environment.

Sound appealing? I didn’t think so. But yet we ask our children to do it. Welcome to high school 2015.

Today’s kids are being asked—required, more like—to work in this kind of system. The amount of academic work in a given day, added onto extracurricular activities and homework, has reached an all-time back-breaking load.

Find a Therapist

There is a general understanding with kids and parents today: The academic world has changed. When many parents today were in high school, they had homework, yes; but they also had part-time jobs, friends, went to social events, and basically had a life. An academically advanced high school student now has no time for going to the mall with friends, no time for a part-time job (unless he or she gives up a sport or other pursuit), and no time for rest and reflection. Add in social media with its false sense of connection and, simply put, teens are struggling with stress, anxiety, and depression at much higher rates than was experienced 30 years ago. The intended effect of helping our children compete globally by increasing curricula has indeed come at a cost.

Homework, hard work, and perseverance are all good things. Teens should learn to handle tough stuff. But should they learn it while being prescribed antianxiety medication to quell rising fear about not getting into the “right” college? Should they learn it while being prescribed antidepressants because they can’t imagine a happy future given their overwhelmed present?

We as parents and academia are missing the point: We cannot continue to ask teens to handle all of this without giving them the tools to handle it.

Here are eight ways to help your teen:

  1. Ask about school pressures and then listen with the intention of understanding, not responding and judging. Ask your teen, “What’s it like to be you?”
  2. Identify what is causing the most stress in your teen’s life. Is it a specific class, a certain friend, pressure from you? Your teen will answer honestly only if you are listening without judgment.
  3. Check yourself. How are you handling stress in your life? If the answer is not very well, then this is a great time to learn better stress management for you and your teen. He or she is watching you.
  4. Teach your teen time management and being focused without distraction.
  5. Teach relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, stretching, walking, playing with the dog, drawing, or meditation.
  6. Communicate with a teacher, the school, or the coach (make sure your teen knows you are doing this) to gain further insight into what’s happening. Sometimes this small act can make a huge impact.
  7. Reduce pressure by discussing your expectations of your teen. Most teens think their parents want them to go to Harvard, but most parents just want their kids to be happy. Talk about it. Are you part of the problem?
  8. Spend time with your teen doing fun things!

The goal of parenting and educating is to raise responsible and resilient kids. In today’s academic environment, mixed with social changes and pressure, childhood is becoming a stressful phase of life. It is our obligation to empower and teach our children both academically and emotionally how to navigate the challenges.

How to get your life started struggling teens

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How to get your life started struggling teens

What is The Heartlight Boarding School?

The Heartlight Boarding School has been home to more than 2,500 teens throughout the years. Known for its excellent and successful program, Heartlight offers a safe haven for 56 young men and women who need help getting their life in order. We strive for excellence in our program, activities, facility, and staff, where an atmosphere of relationships creates an arena for change.

How to get your life started struggling teens

Crisis Conferences

Our 3-day Families in Crisis Conference is designed to provide the parents of difficult teens many of the skills we teach our own staff. Come learn how to get your teen on the right path in life by behavior expert and Heartlight founder, Mark Gregston. You’ll learn everything you need to know to parent a rebellious or misbehaving teen in a totally new and more effective way.

How to get your life started struggling teens

Crisis Coaching

Our Crisis Coaching Program gives parents the opportunity to speak directly with counseling professionals—also known as our Crisis Coaches.

Over the phone, from wherever you’re located, they’ll assess your family’s situation, coach you on how to handle it, and offer proven parenting techniques.

Interested in learning more about Heartlight Boarding School? Download our free brochure by clicking below.

In their own words, stories from the teens at Heartlight. A new video every week. Introducing Heartlight Stories YouTube Channel! Listen & Subscribe today!

Heartlight Ministries offers help and hope to parents and teens through a fully staffed boarding school. Heartlight Ministries is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. All donations are tax exempt. EIN #74-2515711.