Suicide Prevention Month: Helping Your Teen Manage The Pressure

Supportive therapist comforting a young man who lost his parents in group therapy for people in mourning

If you’re reading this and struggling with suicidal thoughts, the National Suicidal Prevention Lifeline is available to you 24/7. It’s free and confidential: 1-800-273-8255.

It might be tempting to compare the struggles you had in high school to the struggles your teenagers are going through today, but the common complaint, ‘You just don’t understand!’ might have some truth to it. Modern teenagers have the same amount of pressure on them as you did, but technology has amplified the effects so much that it can easily become overwhelming. Think of some of the ways your high school struggles could be compounded by the internet and smartphones:

Social pressures are never-ending

With the introduction of smartphones and social media, there is no escaping the demands of teenage social circles. With the constant need to monitor the updates of their peers, broadcast the best possible version of themselves, and constantly message each other, it’s no wonder they struggle to get off their phones.

What Can You Do To Help?

Set a good example for your teen and start putting the phone down when you’re at home. Talk openly with them about the negative effects of social media, and consider creating periods of phone-free time— such as dinner!

The uncertain future of job security

Given how lightning-fast new developments in technology are today, it’s hard for your child to know what jobs are still going to be around when they finish school. This might be a pessimistic perspective, but there is some merit to their fears. Even worse, the expertise that tomorrow’s job market will need is going to be very unfamiliar to us so it’s hard to help them grow and develop the right skillset. 

What Can You Do To Help?

Focus on the skills that will never really become outdated. Working on a team, learning new skills, and communicating effectively are all elements of a good worker in any field. They are also the skills that everyone has had to work on no matter the job, so you can be a lot more confident in teaching them.

Social situations are harder than ever

While teenagers are communicating with each other more than ever, all of it is happening through their smartphones. This makes them much more inexperienced at having and carrying normal conversations between two people in the same room. This can lead to an increase in pressure and stress from interactions that you might have taken for granted when you were in high school.

What Can You Do To Help?

If they talk to you about it, reassure them that those feelings of anxiety and awkwardness are completely normal. Everyone gets nervous and stressed, but the only way to get through it is to do it. Assure them that with enough consistency it will get much easier and everyone experiences some lingering anxiety leftover.

Trying to stand out while fitting in 

Trying to figure out who you are is already difficult, but social media demands an identity. Teenagers like to be different, but at the same time, they want to fit in. Finding this balance on social media can lead to a constant source of stress. Whether they could be seen as posting too much, with too little excitement, or too much enthusiasm could all be possible outcomes. Fitting in while standing out becomes a permanent part of their lives, not something they can turn off by leaving the drama at school.

What Can You Do To Help?

Help them understand that it’s okay to not know who they are and who they want to be. Encourage them to be honest with themselves and not make comparisons to others. Make sure they don’t connect their identity to their social media standing, and push them to experience life for themselves and not for what they can post to their Instagram feed.