Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

SOS for stressed out teens

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
updated 12:05 PM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
When Traci Garcia's 19-year-old daughter feels super stressed out, Garcia (the co-owner of a spa) treats her to a facial. "It's a full hour of uninterrupted relaxation that she appreciates," said Garcia of Harwood Heights, Illinois. When Traci Garcia's 19-year-old daughter feels super stressed out, Garcia (the co-owner of a spa) treats her to a facial. "It's a full hour of uninterrupted relaxation that she appreciates," said Garcia of Harwood Heights, Illinois.
HIDE CAPTION
Want to lower your teen's stress?
Want to lower your teen's stress?
Want to lower your teen's stress?
Want to lower your teen's stress?
Want to lower your teen's stress?
Want to lower your teen's stress?
Want to lower your teen's stress?
Want to lower your teen's stress?
Want to lower your teen's stress?
Want to lower your teen's stress?
Want to lower your teen's stress?
Want to lower your teen's stress?
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nearly 40% of parents say their kids are stressed from school, according to a new poll
  • Growing up with social media means today's teens have less time to truly unplug
  • Parents contribute to kids' stress by not knowing how to cope with their own, experts say
  • Mindfulness activities such as "quiet time" are helping students lower their stress at school

Editor's note: Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Ask parents of teens if their children are more stressed than they were at the same age, and they'll usually tell you, "Absolutely."

"I went to a high school that at the time was considered one of the 10 best high schools in the country, and I think in high school I had less advanced work than they have now," said Nancy Friedman of New York, referring to her 13-year-old twins,

"They are writing real research papers ... much more is expected of them," said Friedman, who is co-founder of a video sharing platform for tweens called KidzVuz.

Teens are feeling the pressure of more demanding curriculum, longer homework sessions, high-stakes testing and more competitive college admissions, according to a new poll.

The poll, conducted by NPR along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, found that nearly 40% of parents said their high school kids are experiencing a lot of stress from school.

"They have to do their AP (advanced placement) work, they have to be in honors classes, and it's not just enough to be in them, but they have to excel," said Jaclyn Bealer, who spends her summers training teens to be counselors at a camp in Branchville, New Jersey.

"They're just putting so much pressure on themselves to get the absolute best grade possible, and anything under a 90% is failure," said Bealer.

Generation stressed: teens boiling over
Talking to teens about social media
How 'selfies' can boost self-confidence
Schools to monitor student social media
D.A. warns parents about Ask.fm
Are these sexy selfies too far for kids?

Friedman, the mom of twins, knows that firsthand. Her daughter Rachel "literally will be upset if she gets a 98 instead of 100 on something," she said during a family interview at her home.

"I do not like getting below a 100," Rachel admitted with a laugh.

Social media adds to the stress

Today's teens, unlike when I was growing up, can now compare their academic performance and everything else about their existence to other teens 24 hours a day through updates on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, you name the social network, and that only increases the stress.

"Back in the day, we got a break from our peers after school and on the weekends, but now kids are on social media all day long," said Linda Esposito, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in Los Angeles and host of a blog on psychotherapy called Talk Therapy Biz.

READ: The upside of selfies: Social media isn't all bad for kids

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and author of the New York Times best-seller "Emotional Intelligence," says all the social media and advanced technology mean more distractions for kids and less time to truly unplug.

"It used to be that children had time to look at clouds and imagine," said Goleman, whose latest book is "Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence." "Now they're looking at video games and are competing with some kid in Hong Kong."

Pressure from parents

Teens aren't just feeling stress from academic pressures. Their schedules are also filled with activities and sports after school and on weekends, raising questions for us parents about whether our children are overscheduled and whether we, as parents, are pushing them to do too much.

"There's a little fallacy that we have to enrich our children's experience with every kind of lesson and every kind of sport and every kind of club, and that backfires at a certain point," said Goleman.

Parents who want the best for their kids get into trouble when it becomes like "over-wanting," said Ben Bernstein, a stress psychologist and author of "A Teen's Guide to Success: How to be Calm, Confident & Focused" as well as a book about stress-reduction techniques for test-taking.

READ: How not to be a scary stage parent

"It could be their own self-esteem is tied into that. It could be that they didn't have the kind of chances that their child had," said Bernstein, who says parents sometimes also have their own hopes and goals for their child that might not mesh with what the child wants to do.

"In that sense, they lose touch with what is happening with their kid," he said.

Bealer, the camp supervisor, says plenty of teens feel like their parents don't give them space to be themselves.

"One of the biggest things that I hear is kids don't necessarily feel that they're being listened to, and that they're being told a lot of what to do," she said.

What they get at camp, she says, is "just having someone to listen to them and not judge them for maybe what their dreams may be or what they're worried about, not minimalizing their worries."

Parents also contribute to their teens' stress by not figuring out how to cope with their own stress, said Lori Lite, who created the parenting site Stress Free Kids after the stresses of parenting were starting to make her sick.

"Many parents demonstrate unhealthy coping mechanisms and live a full-blown stressed out lifestyle," said Lite. "Teens learn and internalize these messages."

READ: Overscheduled kids, anxious parents

How to lower the stress

CNN\'s Kelly Wallace talked to parents, teens, psychologists and other experts about why our teens are feeling so stressed.
CNN's Kelly Wallace talked to parents, teens, psychologists and other experts about why our teens are feeling so stressed.

Now that we know some of the reasons why our teens may be feeling more stressed out than we did as kids, what can we do about it?

We asked CNN's Facebook community and received a ton of great tips included in the gallery above, everything from Merin Dahlerbruch of Rancho Palos Verdes, California encouraging her 17-year-old to pick up a trumpet to Traci Garcia of Harwood Heights, Illinois, giving her daughter a facial.

We also heard a lot about teaching our children how to relax, through breathing exercises and meditation.

In fact, several schools, including one in San Francisco, have adopted what's called "quiet time," during which students meditate for 10 to 15 minutes in the morning and again in the afternoon. Some schools that have implemented the new approach report a decline in absences and suspensions, and an increase in test scores.

READ: Managing your child's stress

"Regardless of socioeconomic status or race or the type of school, public or private, I think that kids in general need to be taught how to relax, how to breathe appropriately to calm themselves, how to recognize the signs of stress," said Esposito, who uses mindfulness exercises with many of her patients.

Lite, the founder of Stress Free Kids, is a big proponent of breathing, relaxation and visualization exercises for parents and children.

When her daughter went to high school, she said, the principal "began to brag" about the amount of stress teens would experience as freshmen. Her husband wrote her a note asking, "Are they going to teach them how to manage the stress?" she told me.

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

That's when Lite decided to create a CD for teens to help them manage anxiety and stress.

"If you watch teens take tests or you watch them play video games, if you watch carefully, you will also see them stop breathing," said Bernstein, the stress expert.

"Teaching kids to be calmer in their body by breathing, by learning how to keep themselves grounded, simple techniques of meditation ... things that we know work in terms of stress reduction, we should be teaching that stuff in school and parents should be doing it."

Follow Kelly Wallace on Twitter, and like CNN Living on Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:54 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
If it hasn't happened already, it likely will at some point: the moment you don't like one of your child's friends. What do you do?
updated 6:50 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
They say the first step to overcoming a problem is realizing you have one in the first place. An online quiz can help you determine whether you are over-reliant on your cell phone.
updated 9:52 AM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
Options for meat substitutes have come a long way since Seth Tibbott's first few Thanksgivings as a vegetarian in the 1970s.
updated 4:12 PM EST, Sat November 22, 2014
Students unhappy with school meals are taking it out on the first lady by sharing images on social media of lunches sarcastically tagged #ThanksMichelleObama.
updated 9:55 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
A Louisiana family is fighting to protect its beloved pit bull from a "vicious dogs" ordinance.
updated 5:20 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. CNN's Michaela Pereira grew up in a family of five adopted girls in Canada and eventually reunited with her biological half-sister.
updated 2:39 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
It began for Nickolay Lamm as a question: What would Barbie look like if she had the dimensions of an average woman?
updated 9:16 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Bill Cosby was thought of as a perceptive comedian and genial father figure. Now, that persona pairs with another, much darker image.
updated 12:35 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
If you think 'my teen would never sext,' you might be mistaken. Recent studies suggest it's more common than many parents might want to admit.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Fri November 14, 2014
I pictured myself graduating from college, getting a cool job and even having a cute place of my own. Instead, I wake to the early-morning sounds of my family dog barking and my parents making coffee downstairs.
updated 12:38 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Samantha Futerman and Anais Bordier tease, poke and prod each other like they've grown up together, but they didn't. Neither woman knew she had an identical twin sister until less than two years ago.
updated 9:02 AM EST, Thu November 13, 2014
A school district in Maryland has decided to remove all references to religious holidays from its school calendar, leaving some in the community frustrated.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Thu November 13, 2014
Female veterans often have a harder time finding employment than their male counterparts. But why?
updated 3:19 PM EST, Fri November 14, 2014
I simply couldn't believe my eyes. At a children's party this year, I witnessed full-on "mean girl" behavior.
updated 12:24 PM EST, Mon November 10, 2014
Several children were sent to the hospital after being sickened by ingesting detergent pods.
updated 9:46 AM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
There are plenty of times when I literally wish I could take a hammer to the portrayal of girls and women in the media. In a new ad, a little girl gets to do just that.
updated 10:09 AM EST, Sat November 8, 2014
"Playing doctor" and "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" are common rites of passage in childhood sexual behavior, according to the experts.
updated 3:12 PM EST, Thu November 6, 2014
A tech startup claims credit for making Alex from Target go viral, but there's skepticism about how involved it was, if at all.
updated 5:47 PM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
A soft toy for cribs lets babies post pictures of themselves to social media.
updated 11:55 AM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
Schools are increasingly confronting a controversial question: Should they do more to monitor students' online interactions off-campus to keep them safe?
updated 11:56 AM EST, Thu November 6, 2014
The National Toy Hall of Fame recently inducted three new favorites into its hallowed halls. What's your favorite?
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
We don't know, and may never know, what led to the Washington school shooting, but we have to ask ourselves, following this tragedy, if we are doing enough to help our boys deal with difficult emotions without resorting to violence.
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
The viral video of a New York woman being catcalled on the street has men asking, "So, what should I do?" The answer starts with respect.
updated 2:40 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Trick-or-treating and dressing in costume have been Halloween traditions for a good long time now, but it seems we're still struggling to get it right.
updated 4:38 PM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
Yes, there's actually corn in it. Corn syrup, if that counts.
updated 2:28 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Walmart found itself sending apology tweet after apology tweet after the Twitterverse raked it over the coals for a major goof on its website.
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
There aren't too many times when I'm speechless about what I consider an outrageous example of parenting. This is one of those times.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Holy crap, LeVar Burton.
updated 5:38 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Critics pounced on supermodel Gisele Bundchen for advocating a little mommy "me time" recently. When did it become a crime to admit that you -- as a parent -- put yourself first?
updated 12:21 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Not again.
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
"Breaking Bad's" drug-dealing chemistry teacher Walter White will have to stop making the sale at Toys R Us.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
I happen to agree with Renee Zellweger that all the chatter about her face is "silly." But I, and many other women I talked with via email Wednesday, would add some other choice words to the mix to describe the non-stop attention about her appearance: nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 6:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
I have long thought millennials, who expect flexibility in the workplace, would be the group that would bring an end to the stigma that is too often associated with flex time -- the belief that wanting a flexible work arrangement means you aren't willing to work as hard. But now I'm thinking it's going to be men who will get us there.
updated 7:40 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Say it with us: Kids today have it sooooo easy.
updated 2:29 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
An Atlanta judge reportedly reprimanded an immigration attorney for bringing her 4-week-old to court for a hearing -- a hearing she asked the judge to reschedule because she was on her six-week maternity leave.
updated 11:04 AM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Monica Lewinsky tweeted for the first time. She called herself "patient zero" of cyber-bullying.
updated 3:43 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Meet Shyanne Roberts, a 10-year-old competitive shooter with something to prove: "Kids and guns don't always mean bad things happen."
updated 9:50 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
strawberry ghosts
We love Halloween season. Sweets. Sweaters. Sipping hot cider (maybe spiked). Halloween can certainly get you in the spirit, and nothing warms our hearts like these healthy Halloween treats that help you stay energized instead of stuck in a sugar coma.
updated 3:23 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Does your baby cry during long flights, causing you to want to disappear from the glares of fellow passengers?
updated 4:14 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Ask any teen if they suffer from social media anxiety and they would probably tell you no. But the truth is getting "likes" and the fear of missing out are adding stress to teens' lives.
updated 9:13 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Many photographers have taken it upon themselves to document stillborn and terminal babies' precious moments after birth.
updated 3:46 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
As part of the insurance coverage offered to its female employees, Facebook is paying to freeze their eggs.
updated 2:15 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Amal Alamuddin was well-known in many important circles long before she snagged the world's most eligible bachelor. But Amal Alamuddin is now Amal Clooney, according to her law firm's website.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Trends in young adult fiction have shifted from wizards to glittering vampires to bloodthirsty "Hunger Games" and now, to teens coping with illnesses and realistic issues.
updated 8:56 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Before he died this year, 14-year-old Martin Romero wanted to do something for his community.
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT