So your child is approaching young adulthood, about to graduate and move onto a new chapter in their lives. As the parent, you might be full of pride and hope for the future they’re creating, but your child might not be so confident or excited for the change.
High school has changed significantly in recent decades, between the creation of the smartphone, the launch of social media, modern societal evolutions and more. Some struggles are timeless (such as bullying, and pubescent changes), while others (such as those that have come with the rise of technology) we are still learning the long-term effects of.
Today we’re going to help you understand your teen’s graduation stress on a deeper level so you can not only remain connected to them during this transition, but help them through it.
Understanding stress in high school students
Take a moment to reflect back on your high school experience; what immediately comes to mind?
Bullies in physical education classes? The thrill of being elected prom queen? Feeling ostracized, straight A’s, college prep stress, star athleticism? Maybe a combination of these.
Stress and anxiety in high school students has existed throughout the generations, as well as the tendency to not talk with their parents about what they’re going through out of distrust, fear, discomfort or embarrassment.
Without a proper outlet to channel this stress and anxiety, teens are at a higher risk for developing a mental health condition like an anxiety disorder.
Teen mental health issues
Adolescence is a highly impressionable, vulnerable and crucial period for mental health.
Teen mental health statistics reveal 20 percent of kids in the United States have some sort of mental, emotional or behavioral disorder. A number that has increased more than 40 percent in the last decade.
There are multiple factors that can affect a teen’s mental health, including:
- Quality of sleep
- Harsh parenting
- Physical changes
- Quality of diet
- Mental and emotional developments
- Substance use (prescription or illicit)
- Level and frequency of stress and anxiety
It can be easy to get frustrated with your teen during this time, to try and force communication or make comments similar to “You’re too young to be stressed,” but there are other ways to help.
One place to start is by acknowledging that your high school experience is different from your child’s. In addition to school systems and curriculums having changed in recent decades, you’re also two different people with your own unique strengths and challenges.
Aspects of graduation that might be stressful for your teen might be issues you navigated with ease and therefore don’t understand why they’re struggling so much, or vice versa.
Graduation stress and anxiety
Approaching graduation brings many questions, uncertainties and moments of growth for a teenager. Deciding whether or not college is the right choice for their future, trying to decide what they even want their future to look like, struggling to choose a major or career path — they’re entering young adulthood, and it’s a big change.
The causes behind graduation anxiety and stress vary slightly per teen, ranging in severity and complexity depending on the other factors influencing their lives.
The most common causes of graduation stress include:
- Extremely high personal or parental expectations
- Uncertainty around big decisions and the future
- Worries about job market competitiveness
- Doubts around personal skills and abilities
- Concerns about finances
- Loss of comfortable social structures (home, friend groups, etc.)
- Fear of failure
Your teen may or may not talk to you about their graduation anxiety, so by taking appropriate steps to learn more about it, you’ll be able to better support them.
Signs of teen anxiety
Sometimes your teen withdrawing and shutting down is them working through normal mental, emotional and hormonal changes. Other times, it can be reflective of an anxiety disorder.
Common signs of teen stress are:
- Getting flustered or angry with future-focused questions (due to uncertainty)
- Sleep disturbances (unable to sleep, or sleeping too much)
- Seeming constantly distracted, distant or “spaced out”
- Procrastinating responsibilities due to overwhelm
- Physical symptoms (like nausea, headaches, muscle aches and panic attacks)
It’s important to remember that every teen is different and can exhibit signs of stress and anxiety in various ways. Take action today if you believe your teen is struggling.
Speak with an advisor today
High Focus Centers is a premier treatment center specializing in outpatient mental health and substance use care for adolescents, teens and adults.
Whether your teen’s level of stress has only recently started to affect them, has been taking a toll on them for a while, or you’re simply not sure how much they’re struggling, we’re here to help.
Our highly trained staff is here to support both you and your teen as they navigate this new transition in their lives. Send us a message to speak with one of our qualified advisors and learn more about what will best help remedy your teen’s graduation anxiety.