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Teens Under Stress

Tzipora Shub, LMSW

Overworked and under pressure, today’s teens struggle with challenges their parents couldn’t have imagined when they were that age. This stress takes a toll on physical and mental health. What parents can do to help ease the load.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The teenage years today are tougher than they’ve ever been. An August 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association revealed that during the school year, teenagers report higher stress levels than adults. The source may be any of a variety of factors, including peer pressure, family conflict, academic pressure, financial difficulties, difficulty with body image, and juggling too many activities. How do social dynamics play into adolescent stress?RivkaNissel, LCSW, administrative supervisor of Orthodox services at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS) adolescent clinic in Flatbush, explains: “The two primary tasks of adolescence are to develop peer relationships and to develop an identity. At times these two tasks overlap because social acceptance, or lack thereof, affects a teen’s identity. Teens feel so much pressure in relation to social dynamics because they rely on their social functioning to feel good about themselves. “Peer pressure is a by-product of the importance teenagers place on social relationships. At times, parents may wonder why teens so often succumb to peer pressure but it’s important to realize that the things that seem minor in relation to social dynamics are really important to the teens involved. Teens spend the majority of their days in a social setting; social missteps can affect them daily. “Parents can help in this area by working with teens to establish other ways to build their identity aside from social relationships, such as providing positive feedback related to an internal quality they have, as opposed to an external one. “Even when parents do this, socialization remains a priority for teens that supersedes the importance they place on family relationships and can be a source of much stress. This needs to be understood and respected.” “Adolescents today are faced with unique challenges,” addsRacheliTeichman, LCSW, a supervisor of Orthodox services at the JBFCS adolescent clinic in Flatbush. “They’re being raised in the age of technological advancement and stimulus overload and contending with breakdowns of privacy and boundaries. Technology, with its never-ending improvements and innovations, has allowed for multi- and speed-tasking with perfect results. This sends subliminal messages to teens about the demand for extensive results and progress and perfection in all pursuits. “Furthermore, constant and overwhelming media messages lead teenagers to internalize troubling messages as to what constitutes success, beauty, and meaning in life. In addition, due to their connectivity to technology at all times, teens show difficulty in disconnecting and just being, without their devices. Time away from technology seems unbearable for some. Most notably, the public domain of the Internet, and the connections and relationships established through the click of a button, have impacted our youths’ understanding of what it means to really connect, what respect and privacy entail, and where the boundary and line between self and others exists.”

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