With our younger years behind us and the responsibilities that come with being a grown up and parent, it’s easy to look at the youth of today and say ‘you don’t know how lucky you are, stop worrying'.
I recall such statements well, blurted out by parents or elders, trying to convince me ‘I had no idea’ what stress was. This, at the time, left me feeling my worries weren’t important, and even more confused and miserable.
This was how I felt way back as a 90’s teen when I only had to sit 5 exams because the subjects I specialised in were project based, job prospects were good, and ringing from a payphone was the only way to contact me.
In comparison, I feel today’s teens have way more pressure than I ever did back then and sadly evidence confirms this.
The Reality for Millennium Teens
Stress and anxiety are no longer a surprise in the lives of young people today, but gloomily expected. Six in ten (63%) British young people surveyed in 2016 by You Gov UK, stated that they experienced levels of stress and anxiety to the point that it had an impact on their daily life.
I’m sure you’d agree, that this is frighteningly ‘not okay’ and neither is the increasing evidence which supports the link between young people’s depleting mental wellbeing and the pressures of education, social media, relationships, and the current political and economic climate.
Educational pressure is not just experienced by young people, but also schools, teachers, and families through expectancy to achieve excellent exam results and outcomes.
Well-meaning statistics continually provided to teens by governments, parents, schools, and the media regarding the link between revision, good results, and succeeding have been found to inadvertently set young people up to place high standards upon themselves and instil a fear of failure within them, if not reached.
Social media Pressure
Further pressure comes with the digital age. Millennium teens wade through landscapes where everything is expected to be perfect, instant and available 24/7, including themselves. Teenagers regrettably feel under pressure to keep up with social media and their body image.
A recent study found teenagers were feeling pressurised into replying to the constant bombardment of messages, staying in the social loop, looking good and remaining popular within the news feed.
Relationships are an integral part of most people’s lives, so it’s no surprise that teens also feel they have the added pressure of dealing with, and feeling they shoulder, problems of family, friends and their partners.
However, the increased pressure element according to the Princes Trust says 46% of young people don’t talk to anyone about situations that impact their day-to-day life. The potential health risks of not gaining help when needed are known to most.
Current Political & Economic Pressure
New research shows the U.K’s current political climate is adding to millennium teens buckling pressure. Not only are teens concerned about the out-of-reach prospect of getting a job, owning their own house and having a good standard of living, but they also bear witness to the population being affected by the economic downturn.
Financial cuts within businesses, job insecurity, and increasing demands upon employees to achieve more, but with fewer resources is resulting in the mental health of adult role models becoming affected.
Naturally, if adult role models don’t have the necessary resilience skills to manage current challenges, they are less equipped to support the younger generation.
Control the underlying factor
Evidence of pressures faced by millennium teens can leave you feeling like they are somewhat doomed. However, just because outlined factors can lead to today’s millennium teens becoming stressed does not mean they will experience it to its severity, or they won’t be able to cope with it.
Stress only develops when the demands of a situation are perceived beyond a person’s control, in which they feel they have no resources to overcome it.
Supporting teens to explore how they may have more control over a situation than they currently feel they have is the first step, in lasting measures, to managing pressure. Supporting teens to let go of what they have no control over is the second step. In doing so, teens are better able to regulate emotions, handle stress, and develop coping strategies and networks of support when challenged.
Here is a helpful technique to support teens to recognise and manage control when challenged;
Focus on what you can control
When feeling challenged, ensure a teen is focusing on what they can control, reminding them the only control they have is of their thoughts and actions.
To help with this, suggest they write a list of whatever is causing them stress/upset. Then next to each concern ask them to place a tick to denote what is within their control, and a cross to denote what is not.
Once the list is complete, ask them to only place their attention on each ticked concern and answer the following questions;
- ‘What can I do to make this situation better?’
- 'What resources or people might I need to help me?’
Whatever answers come up; support the teen to put their solutions into action.
If a teen is having difficulty letting go of what’s not within their control, here are some helpful questions to help them make sense of the reasons and move forward;
- 'What are you afraid will happen if you let go?'
- 'What is possibly the worst that could happen?' 'Is it true?' 'What can you do to handle that?'
- 'What ways can you help yourself to let go and accept any outcomes?'
Let’s be honest, teens today are facing more pressures than previous generations have had to contend with, and they aren’t going to go away overnight. Supporting teens to enhance their skill of recognising and managing control is just one way of equipping them to successfully ride the rocky and challenging road of being a millennium teen.