Helping teens who feel stressed

The headline in the Washington Post read, “Student stress tied to rash of suicides…”. One parent that was interviewed stated that, “They are under too much pressure. It’s not all about how many AP classes you took.”

fear-pano_12224The stress and pressure so many students feel at the high school level comes from many different directions. They are encouraged strongly by advisers that they need to take AP classes. They are pushed by parents to do well in school and take on a multitude of extra-curricular activities from multiple sports to clubs and organizations – so they can get into a good school. They have the pressure from fellow students who look down on those not taking all the AP classes, as second class students. I personally have watched students be taunted for the schools that they received rejection letters from. Add to that the pressure these students put on themselves to live up to the expectations of so many others or themselves, and it is little wonder that they feel they are at the breaking point.

As a teacher or parent we want to be in tune with the resilience of a student. Are they optimistic? Do they demonstrate self control in all parts of their life? Do they take what they have for granted, feel entitled or do they appreciate the little and big things in their life? What level of empathy are they able to show to others? Are they drawn into conflict easily or do their skills for overcoming challenges demonstrate a high emotional IQ? Do they demonstrate day to day that they believe in a set of core values and see the big picture guided by those values?

Teens are not developmentally ready to take on the amount of stress our society is placing on them today. As a parent and teacher or school system, what can you do to relieve that stress? One of the most important things we can do as an adult is listen without judgement. We do not have to fix or tell them how to fix their issues. We must though, be aware of their thoughts, actions and feelings and be prepared to help them not feel so hopeless and helpless that they believe the only way out is to hurt themselves. We must also be prepared to guide them in coming up with solutions that work for them.

If they come up with the solutions, and we help them to believe in themselves – we will help them grow into adults who are optimistic, living by core values, for a purpose they determine and grateful the whole time for all they have in their life.


Life Skills: The Practice of Perseverance Builds Confidence In Ourselves

Teaching character and life skills to students

Martial arts schools so many times have students brought to them to build their confidence.  What is it about the training that takes place there that accomplishes that goal, and what can you do as a parent at home that would emulate that training.

Confidence is built on feeling good about yourself and what you have achieved.  In the martial arts you have goals set before you, some of them physical and some of them mental.  You are given the time frame to accomplish them in, and if you stay on target and practice you will most likely reach those goals.  When goals are reached, the confidence is built, so that when the next even harder task is asked of us, we know that if we commit ourselves to the task or skill, we will be able to accomplish it and yes – build even more confidence.

Imagine though, we quit or gave up saying it was too hard, or worse asked the instructor to excuse us from having to do something because…  what would our confidence be like when the next task was asked of us.  We may be willing to give up again, and possibly with even less effort.

Here is the bottom line:  When we achieve something after working hard, we feel good about ourselves and know we can do anything if we commit.  When we feel confident, we’ll set more goals, and have an easier time committing and persevering.  What have you done recently that shows perseverance?  Did you get past your fears, or not let others influence you to stop reaching for your goals?  Did you tell yourself, “When the going gets tough, I don’t quit!”

How to Reduce Stress Part 10: Coping With Stress With Positive Thinking

Sometimes life comes at us so fast and hard that we feel like we are in a fight, a fight for our lives.  When it seems that nothing is going our way, when everyone is picking on us, when nothing is going right – that is when we become the most stressed out.  We start using words like – never, all the time, everyone, nothing – words that are negative about ourselves and our situation that make it sound like the answer is simply not there.

Stop and think for a moment about how you would respond to this if your best friend was feeling like this and they said mean, horrible things about themselves, that they had started believing about themselves.  What would you say or do? Wouldn’t you tell them “No, stop talking like that.  You have a lot going good for you.”  Wouldn’t you list for them the good things about them and what you like about them?

Long before you feel bad about yourself Continue reading “How to Reduce Stress Part 10: Coping With Stress With Positive Thinking”

How to Reduce Stress Part 9: Making Good Decisions Keeps You In Control

When you are younger most of your decisions are made for you by others.  As you get older, you are making more of your own decisions, and along with that privilege come the responsibility for the consequences for each of those decisions.  Life is all about choices, and we all learn that it is about every choice that we make. 

If we choose to eat poorly it will affect us both short term and long term.  Choosing who we will be our friends, what parties we will go to, what and how hard we study in school, and will we say yes or no when faced with smoking, drugs, and personal relationships.

One thing I have learned about decision making is that when we are faced with making a decision very quickly, without time to think about it, our thought process may not always be in line with what our goals are.  Other factors like peer pressure and our emotions may sway us to do things we may later wish we had not done. Thinking ahead and deciding what we will do if put in a certain situation will help us make better decisions when faced with other pressures.

Deciding if our choice or decision is good or bad can easily be summed up in this question, Is it the right thing to do?  We will know or have that feeling in our gut if others will be put in danger, disrespected or hurt physically or emotionally.  We know if we are breaking laws, lying, or making things worse for our friends or parents.  We can examine ourselves to see how we will feel when the decision is carried out and if we will be letting others down including our parents and ourselves.  All of this takes time and needs to be thought about ahead of time.

In business, the process for making quick decisions goes like this:

  1. What is the core issue
  2. What are the facts that will effect this decision
  3. Step back! Do I have to make this an immediate choice?
  4. Visualize the outcome.  What are the consequences?
  5. Follow through with the decision and carrying it out.


In our personal life in those moments when a quick decision needs to be made, these are good questions too.  Making good choices will certainly reduce the stress in our life, and the bad consequences that we will have to deal with, if our choice is not the best for us.  Finally, if you make a bad choice, deal with the consequences and learn from it.  It is not the end of the world, and if we continue to beat ourselves up over a bad decision, our stress levels will continue to rise.

Life Skills: 5 Tips For Teaching Children Perseverance With a No Excuses Attitude

Teaching character and life skills to students

Teaching children about perseverance is more than just telling them they have to do their homework now, or they have to practice the piano or their martial arts or dance.  Teaching children perseverance starts first with setting the example and then using the words with them that demonstrate the lessons you are teaching.

Lesson #1 Perseverance requires not becoming overwhelmed, but taking one step at a time.  We do not teach our children to walk in one day, it runs it course with a little practice everyday for a few months and then one day – they are walking.  The same is true when we set out to reach a goal.  Show your children how to make a plan with one small step at a time and progress will be seen before you know it.  Keep a record of the starting point and celebrate the small victories.  Show them the before and after pictures of where they are today.

Lesson #2 Teach our children not just how to manage their time – but to prioritize.  In any time management course they will show you how to list and categorize A,B,C and then 1,2,3 till you can see the most important and urgent items on your list.  But prioritizing is also learning about giving up some in the C group, fun to do but not important to reaching your goal, so that your goal can be reached.  What are you willing to give up now to reach your goal in the future?  Yes it takes self discipline and learning not to giving in to peer pressure.  Model this for your child and point out when you are setting this example.

Lesson #3 Just as important as managing time is managing your energy.  teaching our children and setting the example of eating in a healthy manner, getting enough sleep, and exercise are the three key ingredients to having the energy to put the time in required to meet your goals.  Are you and your family eating enough water based foods?  Are you getting the 7-8 hours of sleep you need or if it is a child it may be 10-12 hours of sleep?  Does your family have a regular exercise routine, doing some things together too.  All of this will be particularly valuable to your children as they grow into the teen years.

Lesson #4 Teaching our children not to let the lack of resources be a discouraging factor in them reaching their goals is important as we teach them about desire, motivation and creativity.  So many highly successful individuals in the world started out with very little or nothing, or had physical disabilities or other obstacles, yet were able to reach their goals.  Look for examples in all different professions that you can share with your children to encourage them to use their creativity.

Lesson #5 Pursue your interests and what makes you happy.  Don’t worry if it is the popular thing to do or if your friends are following this path too.  Don’t think about what others think, or do.  Find others that can mentor and support you in the areas that you are interested in.  Introducing our children to people, young and old, in their fields of interest is a great way of encouraging them to continue to pursue their interest and to understand what they need to be the best they can be.

Life Skills: Meeting the Challenges of Perseverance, Getting Through the Roadblocks

Teaching character and life skills to students

New Years is a time of the year when many individuals set out on goal setting, yet only 8% of them say that they always keep their resolution, while 75 percent say that they never complete their goal or resolution.  So what happens?  What is it that stops people from reaching their goals?

Four major challenges or potential roadblocks are:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Lack of determination
  3. Peer pressure
  4. Excuses, excuses.


The fear of failure is one of the largest one’s that affect young and older individuals.  But here is an idea the next time you start to give up on a goal because you are concerned about what might happen if it does not work out for you.  Make a list of what the worst outcome would be if you failed and beside it a list of what the best outcomes would be. Now weigh it out and see if the worst is so bad that you are willing to give up the idea of trying and the possibility of success. Continue reading “Life Skills: Meeting the Challenges of Perseverance, Getting Through the Roadblocks”