By: Dr. Jeff Brockman, LPC-A - New Leaf Counseling Group - Charlotte, NC
How important are grades - like really? When is the last time someone asked you what your grades were in high school or college? Think about it for one minute -
I could end the blog now!
Our teens are under more and more pressure at school. This academic stress is a significant for the compounding issues behind teen mental health, which has continues to worsen steadily over the last several years. Middle school and high school come with more responsibility and at a time when teens are experiencing the chaos of puberty and adolescence. It can be really hard to find a "happy medium" in these competing spaces, so let's take a look at some factors we get to control.
Competing Factors that Complicate Academic Stress & Teen Mental Health
At risk of over-simplifying, there tend to be 2 types of students - know what type of student your child is and learn to accept them.
Academic Stress Type 1
Some students will not be able to get all As and Bs. That is normal and it is OK! Plumbers, mechanics, and small business entrepreneurs can make a great living without good grades or a college degree. And remember Albert Einstein didn't do well in academics through high school! It does not make sense to get worked up over this relatively lower academic performance because it probably won't change.
In fact, any stress that a Parent encourages a Child to have when the Child knows they cannot complete a task will not be helpful for their Child's level of academic stress. In these instances, it's a better idea to focus on giving 100% effort no matter what, practicing organization skills, and practicing resilience in the face of perceived failure.
Academic Stress Type 2
On the other hand, there are students who are under-performing and simply choosing not to do their homework - which is most often the reason their grades are low. They test well, but homework is "eaten by the dog" or "lost on the computer". Also, just because children are bright does not mean that they automatically have the organizational skills necessary to keep up with all their assignments.
Children who struggle with this type of academic stress need help long before progress reports or report cards come out. For this type of academic stress, it is important to be approachable and accessible for our Children, as well as eager and willing for when they are ready to receive coaching around their organizational skills. Academic stress can also come from a Child knowing they are not meeting their own potential and becoming frustrated with themselves.
When it comes to supporting your Child in their school endeavors while also teaching them manage their academic stress, here are some tips to keep in mind:
#1 Tip For Avoiding Academic Stress & Improving Teen Mental Health - Structure
Have a system of rewards and consequences for completing all basic responsibilities around the House. Homework needs to be one of those basic responsibilities and you can even post those responsibilities in a common area of the household like on the refrigerator! Keeping it in plain view will with help with another teen issue—arguing.
#2 Tip For Avoiding Academic Stress & Improving Teen Mental Health - Big Picture
It is SO important to keep the "big picture" in mind. No one has asked me about my grades in 35 years. In addition, many adolescents "figure it out" later. My sister stopped going to more colleges than I can count, but she ended up with a degree from one of the top 50 colleges in the nation. And she now has a very successful career! If your children get Cs in high school, they can go to community college for a few years and transfer into the best state schools. And that would save the family a ton of money!
If you feel your child might need help in any of these areas around academic stress where there is a need for improved teen mental health please contact New Leaf Counseling Group at 704-774-3078 to schedule a free initial consultation - or click here to book an appointment online.