Mental health issues in young people have grown and researchers have begun to look at the relationship between achievement pressure and mental health. As suspected, says psychologist Laurence Steinberg (www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2023/03/teen-anxiety-elite-schools-sat-act-paradox-wealthy-nations/673307/), the culture of pressure around school and sports achievement, coupled with long hours of school work or practice, can result in anxiety and depression.
How do parents hold their adolescents to high expectations while avoiding the high stress environment that causes depression and anxiety?
In her new book, “Never Enough: When Achievement Pressure Becomes Toxic – and What We Can Do About It,” Jennifer Breheny Wallace suggests changing what you ask your child when they return from school each day. Instead of quizzing your teen about grades or homework, Breheny Wallace suggests “leading with lunch.” By starting the conversation with something as innocuous as what they had for lunch, parents let their children know that they are interested in them and not just in their achievements.
In “Teaching Character through Sport,” author Bruce Brown suggests a similar tactic, suggesting that after a sporting event, parents allow children to digest their performance before discussing. Parents should be a source of confidence and comfort, regardless of the outcome, so that children recognize their value and worth is not tied to athletic performance.
Both authors recommend saving conversations about academic or athletic performance for a quiet time separate from the event itself, which allows students to decompress without taking away from parental expectations. Above all, listening to and encouraging adolescents to develop their own solutions is key.
Want to learn more? Check the KidsMatter website at www.kidsmatter2us.org for information on upcoming Parent Education opportunities and available webinars.