Earlier this week my ears perked up when NPR’s feature on college preparation, stress, and teens aired. Obviously, this phase of Laurel’s life is many years off (assuming she opts for college instead of a painting commune) but even now, as I see her and her little friends becoming more complex little people, I alternatively feel joyful and anxious about the years to come. I so want Laurel to be peaceful and happy and confident but times as a teen are invariably tough.
NPR’s feature, the catalyst of which was a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on the negative impact of stress and pressure on teens, focused on the stress associated with the college application process. At the end of the broadcast I was interested to hear that the AAP devised a new web site where teens could design personalized stress-reduction plans.
Unfortunately, when I checked out the site I was utterly disappointed. The AAP report page primarily features two links to purchase what appear to be publications resulting from the report, plus a decidedly un-hip looking “for teens only” graphic that leads to an even less exciting looking page that even I – a Ph.D. in psychology – struggled to stay interested in. Perhaps I’m underestimating today’s stressed teen, but I had a tough time imagining a freaked out teen wading through the verbiage and instructions and filling out all of the exercises (the responses of which apparently just get e-mailed back to you…why bother?).
Call me instinctive, but it seems that the first line of action involves the parent, the closest physical source to detect warning signs of stress. Despite the annoying pop up ads, FamilyEducation.com offers a solid resource center to provide parents with information about warning signs, stress factors, high achieving kids, over expecting parents, coping strategies, and dangerous behaviors resulting from stress. Following this, I believe there is utility to the types of questions the AAP expects teens to fill out on the computer (presumably on their own), but that they should be worked on by the teen in partnership with a parent or therapist or other “safe” mentor.