There should be no surprise at the amount of teenage stress in the world. Have you ever tried to stop a speeding train? The teen years are like a speeding train and they seem to be unstoppable. If you do try to stop that amazing energy suddenly and without a plan, there will be devastation, just like if a train that suddenly derails and crashes.
If you try to slow it down, suddenly, you will fare a little better, but only a little. It is very hard to slow down a train. Our only real hope in dealing with the energy and agitation of the teen years is to try to direct it in positive ways. In this way, teenage energy can become teenage power instead of teenage stress.
And don't bother waiting until the magic year 13 comes along. As parents, if we haven't laid a good set of tracks for our kids to follow by age 9 or 10, then it is likely the teen years will see us in for a very rough ride. I recommend you start laying those tracks no later than age five. After all, there are many forces that a teen will encounter along the way that will attempt to derail that train.
Teenage stress is understandable and manageable. Even if the track is not as smooth as it could be, there are switching stations all along the way. We don't need to be afraid of teens, they are reasonable people. Even the trouble makers are nowhere near close to being lost causes.
It may take some serious outreach to change one teen's path, but it can be done and it is always worth it. Most teens are very smart, very passionate and very aware. If we could take a teen's energy for life and turn it into a bottle of vitamins, there would never be illness. One of the biggest challenges that teens face is that they are treated like children for far too long. This is a major source of teenage stress and many educational professionals, such as John Taylor Gatto, believe that adolescence or the teen years are a false stage of human development.
Mr. Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991, believes that children are ready to take on the world as young as age 13-14 and then society works hard to keep them in childlike roles for far too many years past that. Basically, young teens are ready and we keep saying slow down and stay in school.
Adults in modern society believe we need to keep teaching teens more academics and we need to keep testing their cognitive learning levels, but perhaps we are wrong and we need to let them do much more to engage with the adult world at much younger ages. Perhaps, the teen years should be about trying out life rather than doing more math and science. If we did this, perhaps teenage stress would become a thing of the past.
Teens need direction and they need to be challenged, for sure, but we also need to channel their energy in highly constructive ways. We need to raise our expectations of teenagers. In the old days, the average teen of 16 or 17 was already married and raising/supporting a family, but nowadays we treat teens like babies for far too long.
Put them to work. Give them something to do. Give them a cause. Make them feel useful. Letting them sit on their butts in front of a television or gaming console is a recipe for disaster. If you want your teen to get stress under control, we need to get serious about valuing teens so they can start learning how to value themselves as well.
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