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Are Your Teens Doing Too Much? Finding the Right Balance for Extracurricular Activities

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Is your high school student seriously stressed out? Recent studies show that about 20% of all high school juniors and seniors report that they feel depressed, but the cure might be to spend more time outdoors and to play sports more often. The health benefits of playing sports are widely known, but students who are active in school sports could be helping their mental health as well. The top private schools offer a wide range of athletic activity options to students, and can count on student athletes to post excellent grades and to demonstrate leadership both on and off the court.

If your teen reports that they feel stressed at school, ask them to describe the feeling. Are they overwhelmed because of college testing? Are they sad that they’re going to be graduating and leaving their friends? Asking teenagers to put a name to their feelings is the first step toward minimizing stress. If teens are feeling anxious at the transitions that are fast approaching, it’s good to lean on some old habits with them. If you used to take them out for ice cream when they were smaller, take them out to ice cream and just sit and talk. Teens are famous for being incommunicative, but the power of ice cream and a long drive can make even the quietest teen share a little.

Most teens report that they like to spend time thinking, reading, and spending quality time in the school library or playing sports. High school basketball coaches recommend that their players get enough sleep before a game, and often require that the players on the high school basketball team keep their grades at a certain level. There’s no reason for stress, but teenagers may be afraid of leaving home to go to college. If there are basketball games played at a college near you, take your family to a game so your teens can see what a college game feels like. Top ranked private high schools often help their students apply for scholarships to local colleges.

In general, the benefits of teamwork are obvious for children who participate in any sport. If they are not exactly ready for the high school basketball or football team, see if your children would excel at solitary sports, like swimming or chess. The skills that they develop from playing on a team last them for the rest of their lives. If your child is naturally good at a range of sports, ask them to pick one per season to focus on. Colleges want to see kids who have developed a skill set in a particular sport, but they also want to see kids who have focused on a few extracurricular activities and become leaders for their teammates.

If your high schooler reports that they feel pulled in too many directions, it’s okay to pull back for a while. High school basketball teams would rather people played who feel energized by the sport and by the teamwork. Teens who put too much pressure on themselves may feel like success has become a job, and that activities are too much to continue. Talk to their coach: they may be able to bench students for a few games and allow them to return to the team without penalty. Sometimes, sitting in the audience at a sports game can return a feeling of purpose to burnt out teenaged students.

Overall, it’s important to share a sense of teamwork: students who play on the same sports team may find themselves reaching out to each other on social media. Once they all go to college, it can be fun to visit back and forth. Students make lifelong friends on the basketball, football, and tennis court. It’s important that they enjoy themselves, and that parents keep an eye on the levels of pressure that teens put themselves through. When they find the right balance, they will report that they feel much happier.

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