Stellar grades and an impressive extracurricular portfolio — all signs point to your teen’s happy ending. Or do they? High-achieving teens are precisely the ones that need extra emotional support and a balanced set of life skills.
Studies show teens who feel pressure to excel have anxiety, depression, substance abuse and delinquent behavior 2-3x more than the national average.
Even if you aren’t pushing your teen to excel, they internalize pressure from many sources.
They might compare themselves to friends who make honors classes and high GPAs look like a breeze. Or maybe they play for a hard-driving coach focused on championships. They could have school administrators who emphasize high standardized test scores. And, there’s always the increasing competitiveness of getting accepted to college.
I see these highly-stressed, headed-for-burnout achievers all the time.
For instance, I recently coached a high school senior with a ton of anxiety. She wanted to lead her swim team, earn A’s in all of her honors and AP classes, and figure out where she was going to college.
The pressure was just too much. She pushed herself as hard as she could. She was constantly “on.”
And, even if she did have time to relax, she felt like she couldn’t. She felt guilty, because she “should” be doing something productive.
She would get stress headaches and have to take “mental health” days off from school. And, unfortunately, the missed work caused even more stress.
So, we developed several coping strategies together.
First, we created a positive mindfulness practice to slow down, and shift, her energy. She installed the I AM app for affirmations and took screenshots of her favorite ones. When she felt stressed, she’d flip through the pictures and repeat the affirmations to herself. That gave her a “time out” moment and reminded her of how capable she was. It also helped her realize that the world wasn’t really crumbling — she just needed to breathe and move forward.
In addition, she made self care part of her daily routine to keep her positivity and energy high. She began to pack a water bottle and snacks. And, she made sure she had time for physical activity.
A few weeks after she started these practices, her parents noticed that she looked more relaxed. They actually saw her read a book for pleasure, which is something she never allowed herself to do before. She had a positive attitude, fresh perspective, and more energy.
I invite you to check-in with your teen, and gauge how much pressure they feel to excel. They will face increasing pressure as they head to college and throughout their career. Now is the time to build the skills that support their mental well-being, and ensure they follow their own true north in a healthy way.
If you need more support, I invite you to reach out for a free strategy call to help your high-achiever. We’ll discuss your situation, key parenting steps you can take, and smart tactics for your teen. I also offer 1-1 coaching services and a group coaching program in the fall.
Wishing you and your teen much success,