As a counselor, I know how much teens struggle today. Even though I see them laughing and smiling out in public as if they didn’t have an ounce of stress in their day that day, I know so many of them suppressing their anxieties and doing their best to just get by.
Of course, none of this is new news. It's no secret that kids face hard times while they endure the pains of adolescence. However, our children today lead much different lives than we ever used to. Gone are the days when kids only had to worry about getting good grades in school and eating their broccoli. Children today are growing up in a fast-paced world of technology, social media, and societal pressures—a place where the rules are complicated, the expectations are higher, and there’s nowhere to hide.
By no means an exhaustive list, these four reasons below only begin to scratch the surface of why teens struggle more and more to lead calmer, more happy lives.
Technology & the Internet
When I was in school, I remember the joy of being able to leave school pressures and relationship drama—well—at school. It’s important to consider your children today don't necessarily have that luxury. Because so much of their lives (including homework!) exists within a smartphone or computer screen, their personal struggles and anxieties don't get a minute of rest. Nearly everything that stresses them out on a day-to-day basis follows them around in their pockets now, not just in the school hallways. No matter where they go or what they do, they are almost always tethered to that world.
Once designed as a way for people to keep in touch and network with friends, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have grown into something far more powerful, intoxicating, and dangerous. For many, social media delivers a highly distorted version of reality that changes the very way children experience the world and interact with the people around them. Social cues are more nuanced and complicated; genuine gestures of kindness are replaced with artificial measures such as "likes" and cartoon emojis. Suddenly they can spy on their school crush and they can in turn spy on them. It's a slippery and complicated slope—especially for the kids who are still trying to discover who they are and who they want to be. Social media is extremely good at complicating that.
Among other things, bullying is an unfortunate side effect of growing up that children are often forced to experience. However, not only are children today enduring taunts from named bullies in their classrooms, but they endure the same hateful words from unnamed bullies on the internet. It's so easy for a bully to remain anonymous on the web—and even easier to turn up the aggression because of that anonymity. What was once name-calling and empty threats on the playground has effectively turned into psychological torture with very real and violent consequences for those who don’t have the tools to effectively process their emotions.
Social & Societal Pressures
As popular culture gets more and more adult, so do our children. For many kids, celebrities actively shape their world—and often in nefarious ways. They are taught how to be cool, how to look, how to act... and naturally, our children follow suit. Unfortunately, this establishes an unrealistic set of expectations as they try to force their way into a body, friend group, or lifestyle that doesn’t fit.
Spend Time with Them
They may not think it’s very cool, but spending time with your children can really give them the support they need to feel OK. If you really sit down and talk to them—and I mean really ask about what they are looking forward this year or what they’re excited about in life—you’ll learn more about who they are and who they want to be in just a few moments than you ever have before. Ask good questions and always keep listening. They’re trying to tell you something!
Already an effective treatment for PTSD, EMDR has proven to be an effective and positive treatment for children who have high anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues as well. Facilitated by a trained professional counselor, EMDR sessions can help your child process and move past the anxieties and/or issues that continue to weigh on them daily.
Counseling doesn't have to be another experience your child has to go through alone. Although they might want to be alone, going to family therapy sessions can actually help children and teens feel more connected to their families or guardians. For you, it can help them recognize that they have so many people to support them if they need it as well as the tools to communicate their anxieties in a positive, more helpful way.
If you notice your child is struggling with anxiety or other emotional issues, please know they (and you) have a powerful set of options available to you. With offices in Scottsdale, Pathways Counseling Services offers a variety of child/teen counseling, EMDR, and family counseling services that can help your child through their challenges—whatever those challenges may be. If you'd like to schedule an appointment with us, please contact us here or call (480) 235-1682 and we'll be in touch.