If you talk to any high school junior and senior today they would tell you these are some stressful times. The only thing adults seem to be able to talk to them about is what’s next? Where are you going to school? What are you going to study? How are your grades? Have you submitted all of your applications?
Don’t forget there are also these questions: Have you taken at least one AP class and did they score high enough on the test to qualify for college credit? How many hours of tutoring did you get before taking the ACT/SAT? Did you score high enough for a scholarship? How many other scholarships have you applied for and been awarded?
Success seems to be defined by the perfect GPA, lettering in at least one sport, having numerous leadership roles in various activities so they are “well rounded”, all while holding down a job and volunteering for numerous community service projects. And then there is also the mixed message of “these are the easiest and greatest years of your lives where you have no real responsibilities.” Ironic if you reference the questions above they are expected to be able to answer.
As parents, what role are you playing in helping your teenager navigate this very challenging time? It is natural to want the best for your children and to want to see them succeed, but the real question is: who is measuring the success and what is their definition of success?
The harsh reality of setting the bar higher and higher for teens between 16-18 years of age is we are creating more stress for our children. The number of teens suffering from depression and suicide is startling. Teenagers are suffering from depression and anxiety in record-setting numbers. Between the stress about their future and trying to live in the present, they are struggling. Add to that the pressures of living the ideal social media life and the struggle is real.
We can try to break this cycle by reminding our children that their best is all we want from them. We don’t need to brag to the other parents about the perfect score, the perfect game, etc. Let’s change the conversation to how happy your child is learning or performing or playing a sport and being a part of a team. Instead of asking a senior what school they are going to, why not say I am proud of all that you have accomplished so far. I wish you the best in your next chapter. Many are embarrassed to admit they are taking the community college route and that is a shame. Cheers to the one joining the services, or the one learning a trade, or even the one with enough self-awareness to say, I don’t know what is next, I am taking some time to discover myself.
How about instead of saying I want to see you be successful, we change the tone to I want to see you happy. After all, isn’t being happy a wonderful measure of success?