November Snapshot: Escalating Anxiety among High School and College Students

The New York Times reports on the prevalence of anxiety among our youth with some very concerning stories and statistics.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults. Anxiety can have a serious negative impact on a young adult’s health and the college admissions process can induce anxiety in both children and their parents.

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Focus on your children and what activities are most important to them.

We as parents and educators must help our children take steps to reduce stress and to prioritize their health. The Making Caring Common Project at The Harvard University Graduate School of Education offers these tips to get started:

•Start with your children. Help your children think through what types of activities will be engaging and valuable to them and how they might pursue these activities. Engage in the complex choreography of leading and following—guide your children toward activities that they express interest in and then check in to see if an activity really resonates with them. Encourage your children to choose activities that they have a legitimate interest in—not those that they think admission officers will value. 

Limit standardized test taking.

•Consider reducing activities and AP courses. Encourage your children to focus on those activities that they truly care about and insist that they reduce activities if they are overloaded and stressed. Talk to your children about the amount and type of advanced coursework that is right for them.

•Look at the big picture. Find the time and space to have relaxed conversations with your children about their activities and how they relate to their goals. Consider these types of questions: Why is this activity meaningful to you? What goals does it achieve? What have you learned about yourself, others, and your communities? These conversations are important in themselves, but they can also help your children develop a clearer sense of what energizes them and can help you get to know your children in a different and deeper way. In addition, when your children are more aware of their own goals and passions, they will be better prepared for college applications.

•Set a limit for standardized tests. Discourage children from taking the same standardized test more than twice. Many of the Turning The Tide report endorsers make the point that taking standardized exams more than two times rarely improves student scores. Instead, repeating these tests can leave students feeling anxious and takes away attention from other meaningful activities.

 

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