Tips for Parents to Help Teens De-Stress

US News

With school work, sports, and other extracurriculars--not to mention looming college application deadlines--it's easy to see how high school students could feel a little stressed out.

In fact, roughly 30 percent of newly minted college freshmen say they frequently felt overwhelmed by their workload during their senior year of high school, according to an annual survey of more than 190,000 first-time, full-time college students by the University of California--Los Angeles.

[Get three tips to teach teens healthy study habits.]

Helping teens manage the myriad responsibilities on their plates is an important task for parents to tackle while their student is still in high school, experts say.

"Students who felt overwhelmed in high school might be on the path to continue feeling overwhelmed in college," the report's authors note.

Parents can help teens avert some senior-year stress by getting college applications out of the way as early as possible, says Jessica Givens, a college admissions expert and founder of All-in-One Academics.

Encouraging teens to prepare admissions essays and applications over the summer, before they turn their attention to homework and grades, is an easy way to mitigate stress, Givens says.

"A lot of stress is just, 'Am I gonna get in?' 'Where am I getting in?' [or] 'Oh my gosh, I haven't sent test scores yet,'" she says.

The Common Application, which is used by hundreds of universities, is released on August 1, Givens notes, adding that the sooner students submit their applications, the sooner they can put those questions to rest.

[Learn what high school students should expect in 2013.]

Having an honest conversation with your student about your own struggles with juggling tasks can help teens learn how to manage their own work, says Jennifer Bernstein, a professor at New York's Le Moyne College and founder of Get Yourself Into College, which guides high school juniors and seniors through the college application process.

"Now's the time to really stop preaching ... and start sharing with them," Bernstein says.

"You're still their parent, but you're opening up this new bond," she adds. "It does de-stress [teens] to know that they can turn to a parent in this way for guidance at a different level. You're no longer the lecturer."

While it may seem counterintuitive, encouraging students to take a break from their work is also a great way to keep them from feeling overwhelmed, Bernstein says. A movie with friends or a family workout session at the gym can give teens time to decompress.

"Even though it seems like just another thing to do, it's actually refreshing and allows [them] to get unplugged," Bernstein says. "It is going to make [them] calmer and happier ... and [they] will be able to concentrate more easily and work more efficiently."

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