Teens growing up today encounter many common sources of stress, including social, psychological, and societal pressures. As they transition from childhood to adulthood, face increasing responsibilities and decisions that can both be empowering, but also provoke much anxiety.
Depending on their circumstances, some teens may be better equipped to deal with these stresses than others. That’s why both positive peer support and adult role models are very important around this age.
1. Mental illness
Growing up, teenagers experience new external and internal struggles that can be emotionally overwhelming. According to youth.gov, 1 in 5 youth meets the criteria for a severe mental health disorder. 11% of teens report suffering at least one major depressive episode (including thoughts of suicide) in the past year.
|SOLUTION: It is important that teens’ thoughts and feelings are validated appropriately instead of being dismissed. Healthy, authentic friendships can help teens work through emotional challenges. Adolescents whose mental struggles seriously impede them should receive professional diagnosis and help.|
2. Peer pressure
All people naturally want to fit in and be liked by others, but adolescents feel this pressure intensely. Negative peer pressure includes pressure to use alcohol and drugs, participate in sexual acts, or engage in risky behaviours. But even less extreme examples, like pressure to dress a certain way, can create drastic changes in a teen’s thoughts and behaviours, leading to low self-esteem or even depression.
|SOLUTION: Teens need positive messaging that teaches them that self-worth doesn’t rely on how other see them. Comprehensive educational programs in schools will help teens fully understand the risks of drugs and sex.|
3. Pressure to succeed academically
The stress and anxiety of academics can be challenging for youth to effectively manage. Teens may worry that a less-than-ideal academic performance will lead to being judged by their peers, scolded by their parents, or rejected by universities. Even high-performing students feel the stress from competition or pressure to get into the best schools. In particular, when students aren’t taught to productively cope with failure, they can become demotivated and fall short of their potential.
|SOLUTION: Teens flourish when they have extracurricular opportunities to develop their confidence. Parents need to reassure their kids that academic success is not the prerequisite for love or success. Students who experience acute mental distress over academics should be encouraged to seek help from a school counselor.|
4. Uncertainty about the future
Today’s teens often feel lost and have a scrambled sense of direction. This sometimes ends up creating an identity crisis or a loss of ambition. Being a teenager is essentially an in-between stage of being a child and adult; though are becoming independent and making your own decisions, society tells you that you are too young to know what is right. There’s also the fear of making the wrong decision, particularly when it comes to choosing what to study in college.
|SOLUTION: Mentoring programs for teens can help them better identify their talents and interests so they can make informed decisions about their future—and have the confidence to take risks.|
5. Parental pressure
Even when parents have good intentions, the pressure they put on their children to constantly perform well in every aspect of their life can be damaging to a teenager. Parents who cannot distinguish between healthy encouragement and unhealthy criticism can unknowingly inflict a lifetime of self-worth problems on their children.
|SOLUTION: Parents need to understand the emotional effect that criticism has on a developing young adult. Putting a positive spin on pressure, like challenging kids to do their best and rewarding them when they succeed, is better than threatening or chastising if they fail.|
The rapid growth in technology over the past couple of decades has allowed for social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, to have a powerful influence on people’s lives—and not always for the better. Research has shown that despite its connected nature, social media actually increases feelings of isolation and depression, especially among teens. Seeing “popularity” quantified in likes and shares can create feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and FOMO. Cyberbullying is a serious problem. With technology also comes exposure to content that may not be appropriate, such as violent pornographic imagery or hate speech. Moreover, when teens spend so much time online and so little time interacting face-to-face, they risk not developing the authentic relationships that are vital to social development.
|SOLUTION: We need to set good examples for teens—so yes, that means putting down the smartphone from time to time! Parents of teens should be aware of the risks of the internet and social media, and have honest conversations with their children about it. And everyone has the power to put pressure on companies like Instagram and Twitter to request better content moderation.|
Because adolescence and sets the stage for adulthood, it’s important to understand and mitigate the unique sources of teen stress today. Parents, teachers, counselors, doctors, and anyone who interacts with youth have a responsibility to ensure that teens are set up for the best possible chances of success.
Mental illness, peer pressure, academic stress, uncertainty, parental pressure, technology are just some of the most common causes of teen stress and pressure today.
What else do you see as a primary cause of teen stress? Tell us in the comments.
Arveen is a young blogger from London who enjoys writing poetry, playing violin, and motivating others to overcome life challenges. She lives by the mantra: Once in a while, blow your own damn mind. Define success on your own merit, achieve it on your own rules and build a life you are proud of and empowered by.