The end of the school year is around the corner and it is that time of year again – it’s Finals time.
Your teenagers are probably very stressed or getting stressed. There is a lot of things going on right now, Junior Prom, Senior Ball, acceptance letters for colleges are arriving so are letters of denial arriving too. There are also other end of the year activities. For some seniors, their acceptance into a university may be conditional on their final grades. Therefore, they will be very worried about finals.
As I stated besides finals, there are the Prom and Ball to worry about. Many of the teens are stressed about who to ask, will they get asked, or should they go alone or with friends and of course what to wear and how much will it cost? Also then there are the after parties. They worry about which one to go to and there is the issue of drinking that night, using drugs and having sex that night. Parents remember when you were in high school and all the issues associated with the Prom or Ball.
If that was not enough, there are final projects due, research papers and many high schools require community service hours too. In addition to this there is the normal homework and finding time to study for finals.
In many classes the final may be worth fifty percent of the students grade. The final grade in a class is very important. This grade will be part of their overall GPA which can affect what colleges Juniors can apply to and their ability to get scholarships. Also as I mentioned above for some Seniors, colleges have put a condition on their acceptance. The student must get a certain grade in a class or maintain a particular overall GPA in order to be accepted to the college.
As you can see there is a great deal of pressure on high school students during this time of year. Also since the competition to get into colleges has increased and the competition for scholarships has increased so has the stress on high school students.
Many students will do what ever they need to in order to survive this time of year. This includes using alcohol or weed to help them relax or sleep. They will also take friends ADHD medication, use cocaine, or start taking caffeine pills or start drinking a great deal of coffee or energy drinks so they can stay awake and study. They don’t realize how much caffeine those energized drinks contain. Also the combination of weed to sleep and caffeine to stay awake can cause mood changes, psychosis, heart rates to race and even death.
Most teens want to do things on there own so they will tell you everything is fine and they have it covered. They think it is fine because of the substances they are using and they think they have the substances under control. Remember a teenagers prefrontal lobes are not fully developed yet. Therefore, they only focus on the here and now and not on the future. Also they do not have the reasoning skills adults do. Therefore, teenagers have a tendency to be impulsive.
If your teenager is getting anger very easily or crying easily this is a sign that something is going on. If you notice a change in their eating habits such as going from eating a lot to eating nothing, this is another sign. Also if you notice a change in their sleep pattern such as awake all night and falling asleep at odd times this is also a sign. These are all signs indicating that you need to sit down with your teenager and explore what is going on in their life. When you have this conversation do so in a caring manner, not in a tone that sounds like you are accusing them of doing something wrong. If you come from a caring point of view, your teen is more likely to feel that they can open up and be honest with you.
Therefore, if you notice anything that is making you worry, sit down and talk to your teen. Explain you know there is a lot of stress right now and point out the changes you have noticed and what you are concerned about. Reinforce you are not having this conversation because you are mad or they are in trouble, you are having this conversation because you love them. If they are using things or doing things because they think it will help them study, let them know you are there to help. Explain some of the dangers associated with what they are doing. Remind them no grade is worth their life.
Hopefully they will listen to you and confide in you. If they continue to deny everything and you feel they are using some type of substance, then go to any local pharmacy and buy a drug testing kit. Explain you are only doing this for their safety and they are not in trouble. They may be afraid or embarrassed to tell you. They may feel like a failure in your eyes. As their parent they need your love and support right now not a lecture. Again remember when you were in high school and how difficult it was to tell your parents certain things. Doing a drug test might be extreme, but when you consider they may be using cocaine or fentanyl, which is deadly, the test is not so extreme. It is your responsibility as a parent to raise your teen to be a healthy, responsible adult. With the amount of pressure on teenagers right now, they may make some poor decisions. The drug test may help you save their life.
As I stated above some seniors will not get into the colleges they have been planning to go to. Additionally, some juniors and seniors may not be able to attend the prom or ball with the person they wanted because that person is going with someone else. Both of these situations can cause teenagers to become depressed. Again if you are noticing significant changes in their sleeping or eating habits this is a major red flag. Also if they are isolating themselves and seem like they don’t enjoy anything anymore. These are all symptoms of depression. If you are noticing symptoms of depression, schedule an appointment with an adolescent psychotherapist and have them assessed for depression. It’s important that it’s a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers because teenage depression often look different from adults who are depressed. Your primary care physician may miss it. Also if they are dealing with depression there is nothing to be ashamed about. When you consider all the stresses placed on teenagers today, it is no surprise that we are dealing with an epidemic of depressed teens in our country.
Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children, teens, trauma victims including first responders. He has over 25 years experience and his work is nationally recognized. To find out more about Dr. Michael Rubino visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at facebook.com/Drrubino3.