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4 Ways to Help Manage Your Teen's High School Stress

This may come as no surprise to parents, but teens experience excessive amounts of stress. Here are ways you can help them manage it during high school.

This may come as no surprise to parents, but students between the ages of 15–18 experience excessive amounts of stress—perhaps more so now than ever before. Quickly after starting high school, students are taking their first AP classes and they’re preparing to take the SAT or ACT. In addition to AP classes and test prep, many teens are expected to participate in sports, join clubs, hold a part-time job, and keep their GPA high. With all these commitments, how can teens be academically successful, participate in well-rounded activities, and still enjoy life from time to time? Here are some tips for you to help them manage all these new responsibilities.

1. Start a plan of action freshman year

The transition from middle school to high school is a good time for parents to talk with their teens about the future. Although students are in no way prepared to make a final decision of any kind at 14, they can start to think about what their options might be. Do they want to go to college? Are they going to apply to an Ivy League or other selective school? Time is on students’ side right now, and even a fuzzy vision of the future can help shape their high school experience. It’s far better to prepare for college goals and be flexible if they change than to squander opportunities.

Also, it’s a good idea to think about what’s reasonable to ask a teen to plan ahead for the rest of high school. Should they take their first AP class, and if so, which subjects are they most interested in? Parents can discuss with their students and even teachers the prospect of taking a college-level class while still in high school. Now is the time to explain the long-term benefits of taking the most challenging classes possible and how students can prepare for success in those courses.

2. Maintain a life balance

Even with all the commitments college prep students make, they should still have a chance to be teens and have a social life. Appropriate social time is just as important as academic activities. If a student loves running track, that should remain a priority in their schedule. If they really want the financial independence of a part-time job, perhaps a four-hour shift on Saturdays can be managed. Social activity with friends at least once a week should be a part of their lives. In addition to personal happiness, preteens and teens need to continue to develop their social skills so they can function at college and in the workplace. And from a college-prep perspective, it’s especially beneficial, since the student can demonstrate commitment and engagement to future colleges through those activities.

Related: How to Balance High School Responsibilities and a Part–Time Job

3. Look at colleges in advance

Although most students will change their minds several times, it helps to start the college search during freshman or sophomore year. This doesn’t mean students have to travel the country with their families to choose colleges that early; rather, they should just start exploring their options. Alternatively, if looking at a college that soon is too stressful for students, parents can have a conversation with their student and hopefully allay their fears. For example, considering their college options can make maintaining a study-life balance easier once junior and senior years arrive; if a student is primarily interested in state universities, there’s no reason to take the SAT five times to get a 1900 if their school requires a 1750.

4. Take advantage of the summer

Students don’t normally spend the summer working on academics, which is understandable because everybody needs a break. However, attempting to squeeze in test prep, AP classes, community service, and sports all in a 10-month school year can be overwhelming. Talk to your teens about what they can do over the summer that’ll make life easier in September. Can they get 100 community service hours out of the way when they don’t have additional academic commitments? Can they get a part-time job or internship to save money and gain practical experience? Using the summer wisely can make the school year much easier for both teens and their parents.

Related: The Best Summertime Opportunities: Jobs, Internships, and Volunteering

Most high school teens experience a high level of stress, especially during college prep. Maintaining a study-life balance and considering personal happiness are both important. One of the best ways to maintain this balance is to develop excellent time management and organizational skills. Knowing what is just enough and what is too much is one of the keys to coping with stress in high school.

If your student is looking for more specific assistance with school-related anxieties, show them Our Best Advice for Dealing With Stress as a Student

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