How to Help Your Senior Finish Strong

se·nior·i·tis noun se-nyer-‘i-tis: an ebbing of motivation and effort by school seniors evidenced by tardiness, absences, and lower grades.

Sound familiar? I know I certainly suffered from senioritis during both high school and college (and my daughter is living it as I write this)!  At this point in the year I was so burnt out on tests and looking ahead to college or my new career,that it was easy to rationalize slacking off at school. But, now that I am older (and hopefully wiser), I look back with a different perspective.

If you have (or are) a high school senior, you know just what I’m talking about. So here are some thoughts about why it’s a good idea to stay the course and finish STRONG. I promise you, you’ll never regret pulling yourself out of your senioritis slump and finishing well. Here’s why:

  1. After graduation and throughout college and career, you will find yourself in situations where long, arduous efforts will make or break your success. A deadline for a huge presentation at work, grad school applications, or a team project for a history class are all examples of situations that require effort and adherence to deadlines. As life goes on, the stakes will only get higher, so it’s important to develop and nurture the discipline of finishing strong NOW.
  2. Success in all areas (career, academics, relationships, sports, etc.) requires planning, practice, and perseverance. Here at LifeSmart, we like to refer to these as “the Three P’s of Success.” In order to apply these P’s to your life, I encourage you to create daily to-do lists and implement daily goal-setting sessions. I guarantee you will see your productivity soar. (And remember, procrastination is a ‘P’ you want to avoid like the plague.)
  3. Good study habits are important throughout your life, not just during high school. Trust me when I say college academics are far more challenging than high school (my 3.8 GPA in high school became a 2.85 in my freshman year of college!). And of course, once you start moving ahead in your career, that doesn’t mean you’ll never study again! Most careers require some continuing education, and you’ll have to study and prepare for presentations, conferences, and portfolio building, and more.
  4. Most college admissions are contingent on the student finishing well! So, too, are academic awards and scholarships!

We’ve all seen painful examples of when people or teams squandered great starts by not finishing strong and incredible finishes from slow starters that eventually won the game. No matter who you were pulling for, the 2017 Super Bowl was the perfect illustration of what can happen when you ease up. Unfortunately, that big lead for the Falcons didn’t matter in the end. Better luck next year!
Current high school seniors are about to enter the most amazing six months of change in their lives. They’ll be saying “hello” to their future with more freedom and responsibility than ever before. Their worlds will become bigger and more exciting, but their plate will also become more full.  Encourage them that this is their time to finish strong and launch their future well. With planning, practice, perseverance, and patience, they’ll knock it out of the park. Their success is there for the taking.
Do you have – or know someone with – a classic case of senioritis?  It’s that time of year! What are some of your ideas for overcoming it and finishing strong?
 

Top Ten Parenting Tips to Promote College Readiness (Part One)

teen-at-college

“Don’t prepare the path for the child, prepare the child for the path.” 

~ Author Unknown

Or, as we say at LifeSmart, “Give them wings, not strings.”

Preparing our children for a successful launch into adulthood is one of our greatest parenting responsibilities. And a huge milestone! Unfortunately, as we shared in last week’s blog, many college students are struggling at this pivotal time of life. Our nation’s college completion rankings are plummeting, and we are witnessing a surge in mental health issues on campus.

Parents, we need to take the lead in turning this around. So, for the next two weeks, we’ll be sharing our best tips to help set your teens up for a successful college experience.

  1. Stop the helicoptering! Many collegian issues stem from parents’ efforts to manage their children’s happiness and success. A student’s inability to make decisions, cope with stress and adversity, and understand the world doesn’t revolve around them are predictable outcomes of helicoptering. When we step in to prevent failure, do their homework and applications, defend misbehavior in front of authorities, text them incessantly, and hover and control their lives and decisions, they will struggle on their own.

    As authors of Parenting for the Launch, we encourage parents to adopt an empowering approach that increasingly treats their teens as future adults. That means training them with strong internal guiding principles and giving them freedom, responsibility, and accountability to apply them. Yes, it may result in some short-term pain (e.g., a tough life lesson, failure/disappointment, unhappiness, anger), but it’s for the sake of long-term gain (e.g., resilience, grit, problem solving, coping, independence).     

  2. Foster healthy coping habits. Everyone has their stressors, but, during adolescence, they’re often exacerbated. By nurturing self awareness in our children, they’ll be able to: 1) identify the signs of their anxiety (irritability, restlessness, sleeplessness), 2) isolate the source (tight deadlines, relationship strains, exams), and 3) release their stress in a healthy manner. Together, these can help teens and young adults prevent and/or cope with the pressures of the day.

    Which stress relievers work best? It depends. For some, it’s an intensive cardio workout or blasting music. For others, it’s a bath, a good book, a walk along the beach, or prayer/meditation. Respect whatever works best for them, so long as it’s healthy.

  3. Build positive social adaptability. When it comes to social life, the transitions into and out of college are arguably the most demanding. Our support system of family and friends may seem light years away. In What I Wish I Knew at 18, we devote considerable space to social adaptation. We encourage students to explore affinity groups of others who share common interests and values. To make a list of BFF qualities and quietly evaluate new acquaintances accordingly. To stay patient and selective, knowing it’s all about quality and positivity. Parents, you can instill these valuable habits while they’re under your roof by helping them find opportunities to meet new people in new social settings.

  4. Cultivate strong time management and planning disciplines. With demanding courses, endless activities, newfound freedom, and higher stakes, many students struggle with disorganization, distractions, and last minute cramming—all anxiety boosters. During the high school years, parents need to stress that time is a precious asset to be used wisely. Encourage them to use planners, block their time, build in margin, and create daily to do lists organized by importance and urgency. This is particularly important for the procrastinator, who won’t find it as easy in college. Remember, fun is fine, but the work comes first!   

  5. Apply empowering, but realistic, academic expectations. It’s wise to expect some grade deflation in college as compared to high school. The transition is significant, the competition is greater, and students suffer tremendously when parents expect perfection. Today’s students (both high school and college) often face intense and unrealistic pressure from parents to achieve the highest GPAs. Granted, we should expect our students to do their best, but that doesn’t automatically translate to a 4.0. Oh, and one more thing: encourage your collegian to take a slightly lesser academic load in his/her first semester. It’ll make for a smoother transition.

 

Next week, our last five tips! We’d love to hear yours.

4 Tips to Help Your High School Student Succeed

We just finished up an amazing week at the National Dropout Prevention Network conference in Detroit, MI. The LifeSmart team was able to share our perspective on what we can do as educators, mentors, and parents to help set teens up for success and graduate high school with their peers. Consequentially, we’ve got high school graduation on our minds—even if Halloween hasn’t yet arrived!

Are you a parent or a teacher of high schoolers? Have you ever wondered what YOU can do to prevent the potential of your students’ dropping out, or how you can equip your student for optimum success? Unfortunately, one million kids leave school every year without a diploma. We’d like to share with you our top four ways to equip high school students for success and help them cross the graduation finish line.

  1. Instill resilience. Let’s face it. Life gets difficult. And it can be especially difficult for students who are dealing with struggles at home (broken families, drugs and alcohol, emotional/verbal/physical abuse), or who come from a low-income background. One of the most important qualities for young people to embody is resilience; learning to handle adversity with courage, integrity, and determination. Take time to talk with your teen about obstacles (because that’s exactly what they are, obstacles—not derailers!) and the importance of overcoming them, growing from them, and, ultimately, becoming an “inspirational encourager” to others who are facing similar challenges. Always be mindful of what other side to today’s valley might look like..
  2. Cultivate your relationship. Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, it’s important to cultivate a relationship with your student, especially if you notice the dropout “warning signs.” Take time to talk and learn what makes him/her tick. Are they feeling alone? Is there a certain subject they just don’t get? Are they overwhelmed with too many commitments? Position yourself as an ally—someone who can be trusted—and cultivate a relationship of trust, acceptance, and encouragement with your teen. And, while you’re at it, always seek opportunities to affirm their uniqueness and value. It’s a powerful way to build hope and belief in themselves and their future. They’ll never forget you for it.
  3. Rely on community resources. I’m sure you’ve heard the age-old saying, “It takes a village.” It’s true! Without the wider community supporting the schools, and without parents and schools relying on resources within the community, success would be hard to come by. There are great organizations out there (like the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, and more) that can help your student make friends, bond to other positive influences, and stay on track. Also, encourage them to identify their interests and passions, to offer a glimpse of what their future can look like. It builds motivation, too.
  4. Make sure your child is surrounded with positive influences. Remember, your student needs to have other wise and encouraging voices in their life other than their parents and teachers. In fact, research shows that each student needs at least five adults in their life who are there to offer support, wisdom, advice, trust, and encouragement. Sometimes kids listen to non-parent voices the best! The same goes for their friends. If you notice your student is hanging around with the wrong crowd, or tapping into destructive media influences, address it immediately.

 

Our students are our future—and their success is of utmost importance. Let’s position ourselves as their safety net and rally around them with the support the need to ensure their graduation and life success.

Three Tips to Help You Excel in College

School season has arrived and most of us have settled comfortably (hopefully!) into our classrooms, dorm rooms, or lecture halls. For many students, it’s the first year in the “real world,” experiencing life at college and away from their parents. For others, they’re still in high school, but itching to get the best grades so they can land their dream school. It can be an overwhelming feeling, but I have wonderful news for you.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to get GOOD GRADES!

 Each of us has a learning style and study methods that work best. Also, some of us have shorter or longer attention spans, some of us can still function on limited sleep, and some of us can handle overcommitment through effective multitasking. Some of us need solitude to concentrate, but others not. So, knowing yourself will make a big difference in performing at your best.

But that said, it’s important to understand and practice some universal secrets to academic achievement. These secrets lie within the 3 P’s.

 

  1. The first success ingredient is good planning. This involves making a study calendar a few days to a week out. It may seem like a drag, but it’s the best way to ensure you always have the time you need to study. You can find a reproducible homework and study planner on our website.
  2. This means staying committed to your study schedule, becoming a skilled time manager, and finding a study environment that works best for you (Your room? The library? A quiet study room?). You can use the reproducible daily schedule on our website to help with this. Remember, your brain works like a muscle—the more reps you have in reviewing your material, the more likely you will be to retain it. Try to avoid having to read new material the night before—use the last day(s) for review only.
  3. Deliver what your audience (i.e., teacher or professor) is looking for and enter your exams with supreme confidence that you’re prepared to excel. Be rested, alert, and ready to go. Don’t forget to eat right to fuel your body! (Bring a snack or water if it keeps your mind sharp.) If given the option, answer easier questions first (especially with essays). This gives you extra time to contemplate your answers for the more difficult questions. And, remember during essays, the graders are looking for key words and phrases. Finally, allocate your time wisely among the questions to complete your work at a decent pace.

Students, if you can fully appreciate the need for planning, preparing, and performing, you’ll be well on your way to achieving repeatable academic success. Not just a one-time lucky strike, but predictable success. How’s that for a GPA boost? In this increasingly competitive world, academic performance is critical!

Teachers, how have YOU helped the students in your life become organized and disciplined studiers? We’d love to hear your ideas or any other suggestions you’d add to this list!

 

Leadership for a Lifetime: Positivity

It’s been said you will become the average of the three to five people with whom you spend the most time. Can you see it?  Positive, motivated people challenge and inspire us to be our best.  Negative, unmotivated people can drag us down and reinforce a mindset of mediocrity.

Great leaders surround themselves with positive influences and steer clear of the negative ones. This principle is not only true for relationships; it applies to any influence we take in, such as music, TV, movies, Internet, etc. We become the sum of our input—which is why positivity should be the reigning theme of what we expose ourselves to.

There are few places in the life of a young person where this plays out more importantly than the relationship choices they make after high school, when they leave their comfortable well-known environment for a new one (e.g., college, tech. school, military, gap year). It’s arguably their biggest test.

In the transition from high school to college, for example, they will go from “big fish in small pond” to “small fish in big pond” where no one (including the professors) knows them. They’ll be in a sea of strangers. This is one of the biggest reasons why many people never take the plunge to move from the comfort and security of home/hometown.  Yes, it’s intimidating. Yes, it’s worth it!

When I (Arlyn) was a young adult, I lived overseas for a few years when my husband and I were newlyweds and he was in the military. This was before the Internet and inexpensive phone services were available. I could afford to talk to my parents and friends only briefly and infrequently. I lived in a community where I couldn’t speak the language or even read the street signs!

There were other young adults in my situation, and a number of them responded with negativity and victimization—poor me—and surrounded themselves with others who felt the same. Obviously, their overseas experience was very different than mine. I took university classes, worked at a local school teaching English, volunteered, learned to speak the language, and got to know my neighbors (even though we barely understood each other!).

 

The results? Those who chose negativity were either miserable or short-lived in their overseas experience, while I had a blast. What made the difference? I believe it was the power of positivity.

Loneliness can be one of the biggest de-railers post-high school (after one’s support system is distant and scattered), and can cause depression or compel a person to rush into unhealthy social situations. When this happens, we need to be patient and remember that it took a while to make the great friends we already have. After all, true love and friendship take time and timing!

Here’s how to apply the principle of “positivity” to new situations:

Tip #1: Find people who share your values and interests. (It pays to make a list of your non-negotiable values in a friend before you enter your new environment.) Join a group, club, or team (make a big place small). Proactively seek out a small community where you’ll feel at home.

Tip #2: Steer clear of destructive/complaining/melancholy/unmotivated people, as well as those who don’t respect your values. Recognize not everyone is meant to be your friend. When you do have someone like this in your life, it’s not your job to cheer them up, make them happy, or provide positivity for them (this can lead to a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship).

Do you know any young people in this position—or getting ready to be? Maybe they are high school seniors getting ready to “launch,” new college students, or others who have moved away to take their first job in another city. Maybe they’ve joined the military and are in their first duty station away from home.

Whatever the case, encourage them not to get sidetracked by loneliness—and to choose the power of positivity. It pays to choose wisely!

10 Ways You Can Become a Lifelong Learner

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. -William Butler Yeats

Summer…. Don’t we all love it? Enjoying  the days in the sunshine, drinking lemonade on the back deck,  spending more time with family, and kids (and college students) getting a chance to relax before school starts again. I am not sure who loves summer more—kids, or teachers!

But, one thing I’ve learned over the course of my lifetime is that summer vacation isn’t an excuse for learning to go out the window. The same is true for us adults, who are well advanced in our careers.  Whether it’s exploring new topics or taking a deeper dive into subjects we already know, life-long learning is a pursuit that will serve kids—and adults—for the rest of their lives.

What are ways we can explore other subject areas, challenge our minds, and grow even stronger in areas that we enjoy?

I grew up living the simple life in small-town Wisconsin. It was a childhood I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I spent most of my free time either playing sports or hanging out in the woods with my friends. But, while that got me through high school and college just fine, I began to notice something early in my career…most of my peers were more intellectually well-rounded than me. I especially noticed it at gatherings when politics and world affairs were discussed.  I had little to contribute and it was affecting my self confidence.

I knew I had some serious catching up to do, especially considering the growing number of client meetings I attended. Thankfully, once I committed to stepping up my intellectual game, my confidence grew. It made a huge difference in my investment management career where I evaluated successful leaders.

In this global, knowledge-based economy, students need an insatiable appetite for learning. This means deepening their subject knowledge, as well as pursuing a variety of interests. Encourage them to explore other subject areas that challenge their minds.

Even for us adults, summer vacation is a great time to expand our horizons and try something new. We can even do it with our kids! Here are some ideas for the young people in your life as well as yourself:

  • Check out the free summer concerts happening in cities all over; discover some new music
  • Learn a new sport or hobby or revisit one you haven’t experienced in awhile
  • Catch up on current events by reading newspapers, magazines, and websites or by watching many of the wonderful shows on PBS .
  • Download the app for a media outlet you don’t normally follow. Get your news from a variety of places.
  • Volunteer for a charity
  • Read a book that wasn’t assigned to you or one you wouldn’t initially choose to read on your own
  • Write a book (why not?)
  • Go places: the beach, the park, a museum, the library, the zoo,
  • Enjoy the outdoors: try rock climbing, go biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, or hiking; identify the different types of nature you see
  • Job shadow someone who is employed in a career field you’re considering, or one you know little about but have always been interested in.

Encourage the young people you know to stretch their wings a little, to be lifelong learners (and do the same, yourself).  It’ll help them advance in life and make them more well-rounded and dynamic people.

What are ways you’ve encouraged learning in your children or student outside the classroom? How about for yourself?  How do YOU keep sharp and keep building your repertoire of skills and information?

The Three P’s for College Academic Success

ID-100103840College is just around the corner for the hundreds of thousands of students who are graduating this year. Transitioning from high school to college academics can be challenging for many (More homework! Longer papers! Lecture notes! Stiffer competition! Fewer grades!), so here are some tips to make the grade.

First of all, remember this: You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to get GOOD GRADES!

 

To do well in college, perform your best, and get the most out of each class/assignment, it’s important to understand the secrets to academic achievement:

  1. The first success ingredient is good planning. This involves making a study calendar a few days out. You can find a reproducible homework and study planner on our website. Take an inventory of what you have planned for each week, including social events, and make sure you have enough time carved out to fully complete assignments and studying.
  2. This means staying committed to your study schedule, becoming a skilled time manager, and finding a study environment that works best for you. You can use the reproducible daily schedule  on our website to help with this.  Come prepared and, ideally, sit in the front row (it has a way of keeping you awake during those 8:00 a.,m. lectures!). Complete all of your required readings well in advance so you’ll have ample time to review and review and review. Remember, reps are the key to recall! Click here to read about my “Rainbow Highlighter Study Method” (step 3 in the post).
  3. Deliver what your audience (i.e., teacher or professor) is looking for (play close attention to syllabi and grading rubrics) and enter your exams with supreme confidence that you’re prepared to excel. Be rested, alert, and ready to go. Fuel your body with what it needs for optimum performance and make sure you get enough sleep. And, when you have multiple essay questions, start with the easy one to build brain momentum. It’ll also give you more time to contemplate answers to the more difficult ones.

If you can fully appreciate the need for planning, preparing, and performing, you’ll be well on your way to achieving repeatable academic success. (That’s the best part, adapting these three P’s into your regular study schedule means that you can continuously do well.) In this increasingly competitive world, academic performance is critical!

 

How have YOU helped the students in your life become organized and disciplined studiers? Or, if you are a student, what have you found works for you? Share your ideas with our online community of parents, educators, and youth organizations; we’d love to hear from you!

Photo: Freedigitalphotos.net, by Ambro

Five Ways You Can Set Your Teen up for Success in College

ID-10068687We’ve shared these statistics before, but they’re never any less shocking. The United States is ranked 9th among 28 industrialized countries for college enrollment, but DEAD LAST for college completion. This means that thousands of aspiring students will begin college each year, but a large percentage will never finish.

If you’re a parent of a soon-to-be graduating teen, this is a message you don’t want to miss. As parents, we need to set our children up for success by equipping and encouraging them to reach their goals.

For a host of reasons, today’s young adult faces an even greater transition than in generations past. The fact that so many students don’t finish college reveals their lack of preparation for adulthood and all the responsibility that comes with it.

In many cases, it’s because they get off to a rocky start. The first three months after leaving home are vitally important, often setting the tone for the rest of a person’s college or career experience. We’ve all heard the tragic stories of college careers that ended prematurely.

Here are some ways you can help position your teen for a strong start after they leave home:

  • Prepare them for the social adjustment. The loss of a teen’s convenient support structure (parents at home, familiar teachers and friends) can be hard to take, especially for those who are reserved by nature. Often, this leads to intense loneliness and getting into the wrong crowd for the sake of making new “friends” quickly.

            Talk about this in advance, so they won’t be surprised by loneliness and feelings of isolation. Help them plan some strategies, like making it a point to meet everyone on their dorm floor, joining clubs/organizations of interest, working out at the rec center, studying in the library where they can meet people, etc. All of these strategies help make a big place feel smaller. The goal should be to patiently seek out people who share their interests and values. It will take time, but they will make new friends.

  • Help them develop strong disciplines. Time management, distractions, new responsibilities (laundry!), variable class schedules, and the like are all new facts of life. Plus, in today’s technology-laden world, the temptation to be playing video games (or surfing Pinterest) instead of doing homework can be huge—not to mention the new social opportunities.

Help them develop a list of priorities and to become master schedulers and time managers. What’s important to them? Grades? Fitness? New friends? Spiritual life? Encourage them to look at their priority list daily. Their time is a precious asset with limited capacity!

  • Prepare them for the academic pressure. Competition is stiffer, grades are fewer, professors are less inclined to offer extra credit, and college is pricey! Many times it takes students a full year to adjust to these new stressors. I was a poster child for that!

Encourage them to buy and use an academic planner (or app on their phone) that puts all of their exam and assignment due dates in ONE PLACE. This way your student can keep track of deadlines and not feel rushed. Also, What I Wish I Knew at 18 contains some effective strategies for mastering the academic transition into college.

  • Set them up for financial success. I was amazed by how many credit card mailers our household received when our kids were high school seniors! Is it any wonder we hear so many young adults run into problems with credit cards and overspending?

It is a MUST for parents and students to be on the same page with respect to money. If you are funding their college education, be sure they understand their financial responsibilities. Whether they are in college or out in the workforce or military, you can help them set up a list of expenses and create at least a rudimentary budget.

  • Establish a communication strategy. Be sure to develop mutually agreed upon expectations for communicating after they leave. Regularly scheduled weekly calls during the first year are reasonable. (We regularly hear of text/phone calls with parents as much as 5-10 times a day—NOT reasonable!) They can always call in the interim, but resist the temptation to initiate frequent calls or texts to check in. As hard as it may be, that would run counter to your role as an empowering coach.

 

Bottom Line: Advance preparation for these key adjustments will make all the difference in the world. Put the above five tips into practice and you’ll help position your teen for a successful transition into their new life chapter.

If you have a young adult in college what ways did you help prepare them for the transition? How did they do? Do you wish you did anything differently or have any advice to share?

Photo attribution: freedigitalphotos.net, photo by: imagerymajestic

Stress Busting Tips for Parents and Teens: Part Two

In the second part of our series on stress (check out part one here), we’ll focus on how we, as parents, can help control stress in our own lives as well as in the lives of our children. Of course, we want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem!

As parents, we play the leadership role in nurturing our children to be healthy, self -confident, and well-prepared future adults. That includes fostering healthy stress levels for all parties. With growing evidence that high adult stress is being passed on to our children, we’ve got a lot of work to do on ourselves!

Much can be gained by understanding our children’s stressors and how we may be contributing to the situation. Is our behavior or the way we are communicating with them stressing them out even more? To that end, here are some powerful parenting strategies to help reduce their pressure:

  1. Examine our influence. Are we tuned in to our children’s stress and whether we’re adding fuel to the fire? Do our children see us as part of the solution or part of the problem? Do we need some constructive change in our parenting?
  2. Value the child more than their performance. Several teen stressors can be attributed to overzealous, performance-focused parents with control issues. Is doing their best good enough? It should be. Our children need to know they are loved unconditionally for who they are, not what they do or how well they do.
  3. Avoid overcommitment. During the teen years, the desire for credentials can cause chronic overscheduling at the expense of sleep, exercise, and down time. Do our children have the capacity to apply their stress reducers?
  4. Alleviate decision-making pressure. Reassure them that their future will not depend on getting into a specific college or choosing a specific career. We need to let them live their dream without forcing the issue.

At the same time, we parents have our own share of stress to manage! Launching a teen into adulthood is a defining moment. It’s fraught with mixed emotions, important decisions, and, often relationship strains as they exert their independence. We marvel at how it happened so fast, inevitably with some regrets.

In our book, Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, we offer strategies to help parents cover the bases, build an enduring relationship, and position our teens (and ourselves!) for a successful transition. Here are some stress-busting tips we share:

  1. Remember, you are not responsible for their life. You’ve offered love, security, wisdom, and guidance, but you’re not in the driver’s seat forever. You’ve moved over to the passenger seat and soon will be in the back seat. They’ll make mistakes just like you did, and that’s okay! Relax a little, release your control grip, and extend yourself some grace!
  2. Focus on building relationship capital. This is a critical time to invest in your relationship, even if you don’t see immediate payoffs. The keys are showing unconditional love, mutual trust, and understanding, and affirming their worth and potential. Do more “sharing with” than “talking to.” And, have fun!
  3. Recruit positive third party voices. Parenting really is a team sport. Actively seek out great adult role models who will reinforce your messages and develop relationships with your children. It’s a total win win!
  4. Remember, your identity reaches beyond your role as parent. For many parents (especially empty nesters), the launch of a child unleashes an epic identity crisis, causing them to hold on for dear life. This is a self-confidence destroyer for our children. Yes, life will change, but it can still be great!

Sure, the teen years offer unusual challenges and stress. But, handled constructively, they will position your teen to soar and your relationship to grow in new and wonderful ways. There’s nothing like it in the world.

Parents, how do you rate when it comes to your own personal stress level? How’s your relationship with your teen during this especially high-pressure season for them? Do you have any tips to share with other parents? We’d love to hear from you!

Stress Busting Tips for Parents and Teens: Part One

I recently had an enlightening conversation with a college sophomore who is destined for a great future. She has a delightful personality and is blessed with a rare blend of analytical and interpersonal skills. Her resume of accomplishments is a mile long. So, can you imagine my surprise when she confided to being totally stressed out about her future? Will she find a job? Would she be accepted into a decent grad school? She doubted whether her 3.97 GPA was good enough.

Meanwhile, as an author and speaker, I meet with a wide variety of audiences, including teens, parents, educators, mentors, counselors, and business leaders. Which is the most needy, anxious, and stressed out? The hands down winner: parents of teens!

Although a little stress can be a good thing, too much can be unhealthy and counterproductive. Unfortunately, when it comes to the teen years, it appears that things are getting out of control for all parties.

What to do?

Let’s start with teens. For them, it’s a time of unprecedented growth, transition, and decisions about their future. Part child and part adult, they’re discovering their identity, building their credentials, and planning their next step. Soon, life will never be the same, and it can be overwhelming. They’re stressed about:

  • School—homework, grades, activities—doing well enough to punch the ticket
  • Social life—friendships, popularity, drama, peer pressure
  • Future—decisions about college, career, service, and building their resume
  • Busyness—overcommitment, time management, lack of sleep/down time
  • Family—relationship strains and living up to their parents’ expectations

That’s a lot!

With that, here are some helpful stress-busting strategies for teens:

  1. Keep a healthy perspective. Everyone has stress—the question is how we deal with it. Do we take charge and channel it into a productive plan or do we let it consume us? Do we focus on what we can control and make the best of situations where we can’t?
  2. Be self aware. Identify the chief sources of your stress and ways they may be prevented or limited. Call out any underlying fears and explore ways to alleviate them. Understand and tap into your most helpful stress busters (e.g., exercise, quiet time, prayer, music/movies, humor, sharing with friends and family, serving others). And, be sure to get your rest, eat well, and confide in your loved ones.
  3. Focus more on process than outcome. Stress levels rise when we emphasize specific outcomes rather than simply doing our best. Examples include GPAs, admission to specific colleges, dating, making the team, and selecting our career/major. There is no single pathway to success, including which college you attend. And, for most high schoolers, it’s premature to know which major/career is the best fit. Finally, today’s “friend count” will seem silly in hindsight as you preserve a smaller core of loyal friends who matter most.
  4. Keep balanced and develop good time management skills. Today, busyness, distraction, and overcommitment are interfering with our balance and productivity. Now is the time to sharpen your prioritization skills and to view your time as a precious asset. Manage your pace. And, when deciding which activities to pursue (technology included!), always consider their value and time requirements and your available

During this incredibly stressful time, teens are feeling a lot of pressure and are pulled in many different directions. As their parents, teachers, and mentors, we need to rally around them and help them apply the above principles to keep that stress under control. If you have a teen in your life who is worried about their future, we’d love for you to share this post with them! And remember, stay tuned for the next portion of this series: stress-busting tips for parents!

How do you personally deal with stress? If you have a teen who is stressed about college, how have you helped them deal with it? What has been the most stressful part of raising a “future adult” for you? We’d love to hear from you!