There is stress and then there is stress. (See below graph.)
Stress can actually be helpful. Stress can be good for us. Being pushed beyond one’s comfort zone is a good thing. It’s growth. It’s learning. All growth comes with some discomfort. Stress is your body saying there is some discomfort so be alert to it. Being alert to it means your body will figure out how to get through, how to achieve, how to overcome, how to be stronger.
You send your kid to a good school precisely so they will grow and be stretched. School is supposed to be stressful. Most of the stress students face at school is the good kind. School ideally is one long program of academic progressive overload. The work required should be steadily increasing and that is always going to be uncomfortable and challenging.
There are times when stress is good. When stress is a necessary growth process. School is one of those times. Particularly high school. Programs are designed to be demanding (with various levels for the students who want even more demanding) to help them build the mental brawn and endurance for life after graduation.
You will never hear me call anyone from Gen Z or the Millennials snowflakes. It is disrespectful for the many decisions they have to make to navigate their lives.
Because Gen Z are not snowflakes they can handle the stress that school is supposed to bring.
Caveat: If school is an unsafe place due to bullying that is a stressor that needs to be listened to and you are needed to find a way to make school safe again. The options to do this are difficult and will very likely take up your time and change your daily schedule.
Caveat: While your teen chooses his/her high school courses, if he/she has chosen too many IB courses and is under stress all of the time from them, you can make the hard decision to move them to a regular program class. The challenge will still be there.
The stress from an education is what your teen is supposed to learn from, persevere through, and become wiser and stronger. This is the kind of stress that always feels good when you have finished, no matter what your grade ends up being. You endured and you overcame. Your teen knows he/she is better for it.
In the midst of it, it is scary for you as parents. You want to intervene. You want to make it easier. You want to change something so the stress will go away. So the dramatics of the upcoming test will go away.
Persevere alongside your teen. Pray for your teen. Offer words of encouragement. Protect their study time. Don’t circumvent the value of what they are learning, even as they are “stressing out.” Your teen needs you to be their cheerleader, not their savior.
Pain is uncomfortable. This stress is hard. This stress is also new to teens because their growing brains are forming new neuropathways. They haven’t felt stress like this before. Thus they don’t have the coping mechanisms yet to handle stress like this. You have learned some coping mechanisms. You have wisdom and support to share. You have so much to offer that is not being their savior.
Eventually your teen will overcome—and will be so proud of him/herself from the perseverance of it all.
There is no parenting manual for this. This is you relying on the Holy Spirit’s leading from brave decision to brave decision. Day in and day out. This is you feeling like you have no idea what you are doing. This is you feeling the stress of your own parenting failure—and trusting God for the outcome anyway. This is trusting the Promiser even when your own mind fills in the tension with suspicion that God won’t come through and your beloved is never going to make it. You are choosing the brave decision to trust God for the outcome.
Eventually your teen will overcome—and you will be so proud of you. You will have drawn so near to God that you will trust him (or her) again for the next big time of suffering (because it is coming, sorry).
Your beloved’s overcoming is your overcoming too. This is your victory too. Do you see yourself in this story?
Helpful graph to guide you to determine when the stress that is good can start harming:
Source. Remember that part of normal adolescent development is teens feeling new feelings and learning how to cope and live with them.
(photo credit: Pixabay.com)