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From social media to hybrid schooling, physically distant friendships to new substance trends, teens' stressors continue to grow
The most common pressures adolescents face
Managing time - the overwhelming majority of students in schools feel that academics are important to both them and their peers. For this and many other reasons, conscientious teenagers can struggle to balance academic responsibilities with social lives, activities, and enough sleep.
Technology overload disrupts sleep further - both by keeping teens up at night and fueling anxieties that they are missing out on fun they see others having online. One recent study found that nearly 60% of students were sleep deprived, due to a combination of extended mobile phone use and the need to fulfil academic responsibilities and achieve good grades.
Challenged to balance school, friends, and sleep, many adolescents say they feel the need to "do it all" to ensure future success. Yet, chronic sleep deprivation, especially for teens, is associated with depression, anxiety, and correlates to other substance use disorders.
Managing expectations - students for whom academics are important have parents and teachers expecting great things from them as well. The burden of getting into a university of choice through exceptional achievement during the teen years weighs heavy on students today. The stress of high expectations can become a risk factor for early alcohol and substance abuse. Many students without enough time in their schedules to really de-stress, they may temporarily try to escape expectations through risky drug use.
What's more, some teens feel that this risky use is what adults and parents expect of them! When adults incorrectly assume that all teens will drink or use other drugs - this sets up the unhealthy expectation for teenagers to engage in risky behaviour.
Managing media - Social media, music, TV, movies, and ads can all send sensationalised messages about substance use. Rarely does media portray teen use accurately. In reality, early use can put teenagers at higher risk for long-term addiction and negatively affect their relationships with family, friends, and self in the meantime. Yet, with teens still cultivating their digital literacy, some can take alcohol and other drug fiction as fact in the media, leading to risky teen behaviour.
Teen Health Under Pressure
Researchers have long described adolescence as stormy and stressful, yet we know the teen years also include unprecedented opportunity. Teens who greet new pressures with healthy choices thrive into adulthood.
Here are some ideas how can you help your children navigate these pressures and make healthy decisions about substances:
· Understand that drug and alcohol use is not a fundamental part of being a teenager. Normalising non-use and highlighting the healthy reality through data and examples can help your teen understand that they do not have to drink alcohol, use marijuana or other drugs to fit in.
· Know the trends and understand the risks. Understanding the current trends and risks can help you determine what limits to set and how to convey their importance to your child.
· Set and enforce limits. When teens have developmentally appropriate, explicitly stated, and consistently applied rules, they are more likely to develop the ability to self-regulate and less likely to misuse substances, even as young adults.
· Practice refusal skills together. You can prepare your teenagers to help themselves say no to friends, or to their own impulses, by helping them to proactively build plans to get them out of risky situations. Explore options with them and then practice techniques to help them develop confidence.
· Help teens develop healthy habits and alternatives. Now more than ever, healthy stress management and leisure activities are vital to counteracting pressures associated with teens' feelings of overwhelm. Encourage your teen to find accessible healthy highs. Make sure to fit in time for self-care and fun!
· Empower teens to develop a healthy identity. Knowing their goals and values can help teenagers persist through adversity.
· Keep communication open. Continue expressing your thoughts and hopes to your healthy teens. Ask them questions and practice active listening. Give them space to engage in regular prevention conversations with you and other adults who care.
Lifting the pressure
For adolescents, being able to make healthy decisions while under pressure is a process. It takes critical thinking skills, coping techniques, confidence, and support from adults like you
With profound and pressing needs, young people are at the forefront of Silkworth’s efforts today. In the Channel Island alone, hundreds of young people meet the criteria for admission to treatment but very few receive the services they need. Silkworth’s teenager and adolescent programme provides education, support and guidance to young people who are not diagnosed with addiction but have experienced mild to moderate substance use. Working one-to-one with an experienced professional, the young person takes a closer look at his or her drinking or other drug use, identifies reasons for using, examines the effects of the substance abuse in daily life, and learns to make healthier choices.
For more information about our SilkTeen programme, please call Silkworth on: 01534 729060
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