Stressed Out Kids and Teens

Curled in a ball on her bed after a long day at school, Kaylie hypnotically skims through selfies and snippets of her friends’ lives on her phone. When she hears the door slam and her mom’s voice calling out, she suddenly wishes she could instantly teleport herself somewhere far away. When her mom’s voice gets louder and harsher, Kaylie reluctantly moans back. Unfolding her weary body, she wipes away a few tears, gathers herself together and heads downstairs.

After a quick greeting, her mom begins to question Kaylie about homework, music lessons, applications and whether she talked to her teacher about that one grade. Annoyed by her mom’s tone, Kaylie answers her questions and heads back upstairs…to hide. She can feel her chest getting tighter and the pit in her tummy forming as she enters her room again. “And, this is my life,” she mutters as she plops in her chair and begins to work.

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Kaylie is an ordinary high school kid growing up in America. She’s my kid. She’s your kid. And, she’s doing her best to live life consistent with what she’s been taught. Unfortunately, if nothing changes, she will live in a chronic and consuming state of stress that will set her up to cope in a number of unhealthy and destructive ways.

Kids were made for relationships. When they begin to form friendships, they soon realize that people can be mean. And, pain hurts and sometimes isolates. To cope, many learn to display only what they want others to see. Social media makes this easy. They create personalities, construct their words carefully and make sure it all presents a desirable self. But, when the outside displays do not equal the inner reality, the dissonance only leads to more pain, in the form of stress.

Kids were made to find pleasure in ordinary things and to see God in each of these.  As children this comes easy. But, as adolescence approaches, many realize that these delights can now lead to status, admission to elite clubs, teams, organizations, even colleges! They learn that they can use these to appear special and passionate. So, even if feelings of delight are replaced with dread, parents, coaches and teachers encourage them to keep at it, even to the exclusion of other activities. But, when play becomes work, the pressure to perform can easily lead to feelings of fatigue, irritability and burnout.

Kids were made to dream about their calling and contribution to the community. Early on they are told if they don’t do well then they won’t get into college. Before you know it, their performance on homework, tests, and projects feels like a linchpin that will cause the gate to a bright future to either open up or close before them. When the future is solely linked to today’s accomplishments, many kids will throw in the towel and give up or they will do whatever is necessary to make it to the top. Perfectionism and stress are best friends.

Our kids were made to worship God and be satisfied in Him. By the time many reach adolescence, however, their marginless lifestyles make it hard to find space for God. As a result, they can’t find room in their schedule for Him. Many wonder how He is even relevant to the treadmill they are now on. They have no idea that He is THE One who placed the desires within them and therefore is able to satisfy them. Believing that God is far off, uninterested or non-existent, many choose to worship the god of self instead. This always leads to more striving, more doing, more possessing and more stressing.

God created our kids for relationships, for discovery, for dreaming about His plan for them and for worshipping Him above all else.

IF WE 

  • don’t foster relationships,
  • can’t encourage them to engage in activities for delight’s sake,
  • make them figure out they’re calling on our timing instead of His
  • don’t encourage them to leave space for God and His community of believers

THEN…the joy of living this glorious life will be reduced to waking up and resuming where you left off on the treadmill.

I’m so tired and saddened by the number of kids I meet who are popping pills and reaching for possessions and pleasures to numb their stressed and depressed emotions. No wonder suicide is still the number one killer of teens and young adults. As parents, we must commit to counter the stress-filled messages and make home a place where kids can do relationships, dare to discover, daily dream and most of all delight in God. This is part of their Creator’s plan for them.

By: Jackie Perry | MS, LPCS, NCC

http://www.jackieperry.net

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