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Stress And Consequences For American Teens

American teens are stressed. They may not outgrow it in adulthood says a new report. We’ll look at troubling new findings, and solutions.

Students enter MS88, a New York City public middle school in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. A new AMA study suggests stress habits formed as young adults will follow teens throughout their lives. (AP)

Students enter MS88, a New York City public middle school in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. A new AMA study suggests stress habits formed as young adults will follow teens throughout their lives. (AP)

Americans are not strangers to stress.  The economy, the environment, the snow, the drought, the pace, the pinging of all those apps and phones.  But the news this week was still arresting:  the most stressed Americans now are American teenagers.  We know they’ve got tests and college applications and all the rest but still, we hate to hear it.  And what’s more, researchers warn, pinning the needle on stress in teenage years can have lifelong implications for health and happiness.  So what’s going on?  And what do we do about it? This hour On Point:  Teen stress, pinning the needle in America.

– Tom Ashbrook


Dr . David Palmiter, professor of psychology and director of the psychological services center at Marywood University. Consultant psychologist on the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” survey. Author of “Working Parents, Thriving Families: 10 Strategies That Make A Difference.” (@helpingparents)

Michael Bradley, psychologist. Author of “Yes Your Teen Is Crazy,” “Yes, Your Parents Are Crazy,” “The Heart & Soul of the Next Generation: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Teens” and “When Things Get Crazy With Your Teen.”

Dr. Kristen Race, expert in child, family and school psychology. Author of “Mindful Parenting.” (@KristenRacePHD)

From Tom’s Reading List

USA Today: Teens feeling stressed, and many not managing it well — “As a result of stress, 40% of teens report feeling irritable or angry; 36% nervous or anxious. A third say stress makes them feel overwhelmed, depressed or sad. Teen girls are more stressed than boys, just as women nationally are more stressed than men.”

American Psychological Association:  Are Teens Adopting Adults’ Stress Habits? – “While the news about American stress levels is not new, what’s troubling is the stress outlook for teens in the United States. In many cases, American teens report experiences with stress that follow a similar pattern to those of adults.”

Boston Globe: Forum, fund planned in Newton after deaths of two teens –”Katie Stack, 15, also struggled with depression, her mother said, and was in treatment. The Newton South High School sophomore took her own life Wednesday. Stack’s death came less than two weeks after Newton North High School student Karen Douglas, 18, also took her own life.”

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  • georgepotts

    Raising kids in generation cupcake have a hard time because they don’t experience any struggle until they are 26.

    Everyone gets a cupcake. Everyone gets a trophy. No one gets spanked.

    When they have to do something, they have no idea how to handle hardship.

    • OrangeGina

      A tad snarky, George. If you have kids, be the parent with the reputation for “no nonsense”, and you will find that your children’s friends love to spend time at your home.

      That’s how my folks were and how I was, because kids need structure and rules. They need to know disappointment and pain, and you do them no good shielding them from those experiences.

      There, fixed that for ya!

    • MOFYC

      Blame the parents. They’re the ones who don’t let the kids sort through minor struggles and thus they are never prepared when bigger ones come about.

      • OrangeGina

        You can hope that the kids who make it out of that morass will be the total opposite and be more parental and less buddy-buddy.

        • MOFYC

          Maybe but how would they learn how to be otherwise?

          You can be friendly with your kids without being friends. There’s a subtle but important difference.

    • MOFYC

      Example: Let’s say a kid vents to mom or dad that sports coach
      isn’t playing him as much as he thinks he should (maybe because he’s not
      working hard in practice or won’t follow coach’s instructions in games). What
      responsible parents do is encourage the kid to politely and respectfully ask
      the coach what he can improve on in order to get more playing time. This helps
      empower the kid to learn how to deal with life’s curve balls.

      But what too many parents do is fire off an angry phone
      call/email to the coach or, worse, the athletic director. This prevents the kid
      learning how to be proactive in dealing with his problems. This causes the kid
      more stress than not playing because he was just venting and never wanted to
      cause an embarrassing ruckus.

      There are certain problems so serious that the parent needs to intervene. But
      when possible, parents should let kids solve their own problems. Offer them
      suggestions and guidance but don’t micromanage where it’s not needed.

      • Sandstone3

        Whoever doesn’t ‘like’ this is an idiot. No sugar coating on that one. It’s true and if you can’t see it you’re blind.
        Kids NEED to learn the real world experience of disappointment/not getting what you ‘want’ (playing the game) rather than what you ‘need’ (to look at yourself and assess your skills against those of others).
        I kid you not that these same parents call the HR office when ‘Junior’ does not get the job s/he interviewed for. HELLOOOO!!!!!!! This is LIFE. Learn what it’s about.

    • J__o__h__n

      No one gets a cupcake. Some kid is probably allergic.

    • nj_v2

      Overgeneralize much?

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    Being always on but electronically isolated by cell phones, twitter & face book is not good at all for children. Compound that with living with the fear of terrorism for 13 years, 11 years of war, 1-3 school shootings per month, yes 30 in the US in 2013! Add economic meltdown, an emerging neofeudal economy, corruption of our democracy by big money and a constant assault on voting rights by the right. I can’t imagine being a kid and maintaining and unwavering optimism if this is was the only world I had known.

    • malkneil

      Agreed. The definition of socialization in high school (and earlier) is now a cell phone. To deny a child a cell phone (social media) in high school today would be to remove their means of communication. Good to see all this technology bringing us closer.

    • OrangeGina

      The generation who came of age in the 70′s had plenty of stress. Nuclear threats still abounded. The Jimmy Carter economic malaise. Airplane hijackings. Divorce rates were going up. Lots of bad stuff. If you were gay/lesbian, you kept that to yourself.

      But you could still work and put yourself through college or trade school or find meaningful work with decent pay/benefits and a pension without going to college. You were not crippled with debt trying to get an education, over-scheduled by helicopter parents or molly-coddled to the point where you didn’t know how to advocate for yourself.

      Teachers and Principals could still handle issues in their classrooms without interference from the community. Public education was not under constant assault by powerful forces bent on tearing it down. Democrats and Republicans could disagree, but get beyond that in order to do what was best for the We the People.

      I’m sure in many ways it stinks to be a teen these days, however this is all they have known so it is their “normal”.

      • Bluejay2fly

        Well said. It almost seems that many people today want to be angry and complaining. When I am at work and point how great our job is and how fortunate we are to receive such generous benefits I get an angry glare from people. They cannot even argue against me because I am right ,but rather than agree and feel better about their situation they seem indignant that I am not commiserating with them about how much this job sucks. The ones who agree with me actually worked hard labor such as farming, construction, stoop labor, or perhaps worked long hour with little pay.

        • OrangeGina

          Be grateful, Bluejay, but not to the point where you allow yourself to be bowing and scraping to TPTB.

          The ones at the top of the pyramid will take advantage of that at every turn. For example, one point I missed in my mini-tirade is that you could still get a good UNION job where you had representation and voice.

          • Bluejay2fly

            I work in a strong union job (Very rare thing these days) which is probably why we have it so good. And yes I do not let employers take advantage but when I am at work I do my job with diligence and pride as a worker should.

          • OrangeGina

            for a Bluejay, you are a rare bird.

            The people I know in that dwindling class of ‘good union jobs’ find their contracted benefits under daily assault.

            It can be difficult to have pride in a job where the message you get everyday is: can’t wait to outsource you! you are too expensive, hence you are worthless! and so forth.

          • Bluejay2fly

            I work in one of our sacred cows in America, law enforcement, that is why. I also work in liberal NY where they want highly trained, highly paid workers so they will not risk their jobs by doing stupid crap like beating some worthless scumbag.

  • Markus6

    Having had two kids while living in a Lake Woebegone town (all kids are above average and all parents are type A), I’ve seen this. But my comments apply to kids in upscale towns, not necessarily 90% of all kids.

    There’s the obvious. Pressure to do great was constant. 5 hours a day just on homework was pretty common. And peer pressure was intense – my kids seemed to know (or think they knew) what all their friends grades were on every test and report card. Then there was sports. Every girl in town seemed to play soccer when very young. Each year, the group would get smaller as the weaker ones got cut. This could be very tough on them as they didn’t just lose a sport, but also lost the social group that formed around the sport.

    There’s the not so obvious. I wonder how much of 24 hour doom and gloom news get through to them. Global warming, terrorism, abductions, etc. – most are grossly exaggerated but I think it sinks in to some extent. And now there’s so little religion in their lives. I’m not religious, but I see the comfort in thinking there’s a higher power and maybe a plan. I suspect some level of nihilism comes from that.

    All this said, I wonder if it really is worse now that 20, 30, 40 years ago. These panelists may be realistic, but usually you get advocates talking about this. They have a book to sell, a practice to feed, or they just like the attention. And practicing psychologists tend to see things from a very limited sample – people with problems coming to see them.

    Finally, our town has had 3 teen suicides over 15 years or so. My kids knew all of them and I was close to one family. Small sample, but all 3 had problems far different from almost any other kids and you wouldn’t know this unless you knew the kids. I shouldn’t generalize, but if the panelists say what panelists always say about problems – this can happen to anyone, it’s pretty useless information. Anything can happen to anyone, but the probability always varies based on a lot of factors. And I’m guessing that teens who commit suicide had far more problems than are typical.

    • adks12020

      I graduated from high school in 2000 and I often wonder when these issues come up exactly how much different it is as a teen than it was then. I played sports all year round, played in band and jazz band, and ended with an overall gpa in the A range. I never felt all that stressed. Maybe it was the school I went to or my parents or my group of friends but the only things that really stressed me out were the normal teen things (ie. girls, kids can be jerks, etc.). Also, I knew some kids that spent hours on homework every night but only the kids that really struggled. The kids that were ok or better at school work never spent that much time. Seriously, have things really changed that much in a little over 10 years? I guess we didn’t really have social media and cell phones so that could definitely be contributing to problems but beyond that what exactly is so different?

    • OrangeGina

      The suicides are tragic and shattering for families and communities. I believe that speaks more to the lack of adequate mental health resources at every level, especially for kids and teens. By that I mean, the number and quality of available providers and the use of drug therapies over more traditional methods.

  • HonestDebate1

    Being a kid in America should be peachy. The hope afforded to us all is a blessing that was paid dearly for. I think we need more passion, expectations of excellence and less belly-aching. There is so much to do, be and become.

    And that’s the rub, we are losing the traits that built this nation.

    • Coastghost

      We’ve long since past the point of diminishing returns: I cite the case of the crash of TWA 800 in 1996: grief counselors themselves had to receive grief counseling, just to perform their jobs (therapists requiring therapy)! Alternatively, not a single solitary combatant from the War of Northern Aggression ever received the first diagnosis, the first therapeutic session for PTSD (and the Republic survived, perhaps miraculously).
      Granted, our souls may have grown oh so much more fragile in the twentieth century (though no one explains how the horrors of the 20th century can be thought to exceed those of any preceding century: if on the other hand each century gets only more horrible, we’ll find ourselves so beside ourselves with torment by the end of THIS century, we’ll have to rely on our computers to massage our souls, all the other human beings will be too desolated with grief to offer any help).

      • Bluejay2fly

        Your right people were hardier back in the good old days when you could beat your wife or children unconscious, go out and murder a few indians or negroes for fun, or if your more high brow you can work diligently to make certain that human rights only apply to rich, white, educated males. Yes, you could do all those things and more with absolutely no remorse whatsoever. My have we devolved.

        • Coastghost

          Indeed: we can be absolutely certain that every white male of the American colonies who applied himself in the 17th and 18th centuries daily beat his wife and children mercilessly because of all the various stresses HE was subject to, murdered aborigines and imported slaves with gleeful abandon (on a daily if not an hourly basis: we have to understand our white male colonial was under a LOT of stress), and schemed to enrich only his class of fellow white male colonials.
          Yes: our mythologies are full of such accounts. (Perhaps it’s our mythologists who could profit from extensive psychotherapy . . . .)

          • Bluejay2fly

            My point was that it in many cases it was legal and not against the law!

        • Sandstone3

          You’re missing the point. People worked and worked HARD. That was independent of what was done outside of work.

          • Bluejay2fly

            He was talking about our souls so I think you missed the point ,but I will answer that as well. People today also work hard. The homework allotted in schools and the amount of information they are required to learn is the same if not more than in the past. We have many Americans who work in excess of 40 hours a week so to think we have become indolent and shiftless may only be a relevant observation about some idle people in America.

      • OrangeGina

        It is completely normal and expected that therapists receive counseling. I seem to recall, but cannot find a reference ATM, that training to be a psychotherapist requires one to be analyzed.

        The War of Northern Aggression? Have you been watching too much Ken Burns?

        You don’t have to be an a war to suffer from PTSD.

      • nj_v2

        I wondered which of our “conservative friends” who litter this forum with their regressive prattle would troll up this topic today. Well, here we have our answer; an utterly ignorant attempt to dismiss a real issue by invoking the idea that it must have been worse in previous times, and, well, somehow people got through, so why all the fuss?

        The state-of-the-art of surgery during Coastghosttroll’s “War of Northern Aggression” was a rusty saw blade, a tourniquet, and a bottle of whisky.

        Gee, the Republic survived, so why so we bother with modern hospitals, anesthetics, rigorous medical training, etc.?

        Is it possible to proffer a more asinine, ignorant premise?

        • HonestDebate1

          What’s your purpose?

      • HonestDebate1

        … never realizing we have it made in the shade with a glass of lemonade.

    • MOFYC

      It should but it’s not. Kids today see a culture where hard work and education are not rewarded. They are pushed to near breaking point with the moronic avalanche of standardized testing – something completely unrelated to anything they’ll face in the working world – and wonder what’s the point of it all. Your comment is based on the premise that America is a meritocracy. It’s becoming less and less so.

      And there’s the rub. The push for artificial “excellence” that has little relevance to actual education is precisely what’s killing the passion.

      • HonestDebate1

        I get your point especially about artificial excellence. Excellence is hard. It’s from the sacrifice endured in the pursuit of excellence where the valuable lessons are learned.

        I’m not so down on the tests. I think the entire paradigm of learning needs to shift.

        • MOFYC

          Of course excellence is hard. Real excellence is also rare; rareness is inherent in the definition of the word. Modern education is structured so as to expect all children to be excellent… the equivalent of the utopian Lake Wobegon where “all the children are above average.” As noble as this goal may be, it is, as anyone with basic knowledge of statistics could tell you, mathematically impossible.

          • HonestDebate1

            I disagree. I don’t think that is the goal either, I draw a distinction between “above average” and “excellence”. Everybody can be excellent at something.


    • Bluejay2fly

      We do not do anything any more. We do not build great things or have grandiose ideas. Instead, its all about the preservation of the status quo which is grossly unfair to most citizens. The youth live in a nation that accepts that millions of people are disposable to be left unemployed and out of the economy. We cram our your into colleges and load them with debt and despite their education and vigor the industry they want to enter has no room for them. The uneducated we placate with welfare, prisons, or some other marginal existence.

      • HonestDebate1

        I agree.

    • nj_v2

      Ignorant conclusions based on selective, fantastical mis-understandings of history. Just what we’ve come to expect from DisHonestMisDebator Greggg.

  • Deborah Holmes

    Tom, Yesterday I viewed this Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist, as she presented new research on stress and how to make it work for you and how it really affects people – teenagers included (joke). I believe this pertains to your discussion.

  • Jeff_in_Connecticut

    Teenagers today are the children of some of the first Americans who are not doing better economically than earlier generations. I wonder how much this contributes to their stress?

    • Bluejay2fly

      It is also a social climate where all our institutions are considered evil and corrupt, the news media constantly pushes fear, horror seems to be a favorite subject of movies and video games, and to round it out people are obsessive about material wealth and status. Where in society do you find anything soul nourishing? We are a religious nation but many who claim to be spiritual are materialistic, angry, and judgemental people who talk about the end of the world with a tone of anticipation.

      • skelly74

        The U.S. certainly needs to do some soul searching, however, the religions of Abraham may not be the best source for enlightenment and inner peace. God competition is more often cast aside because we are too busy competing for material and status empowerment.

    • Coastghost

      Surely members of earlier generational cohorts found themselves in economic circumstances inferior to those of their parents.
      You make it sound as if it’s happened freshly for the very first time in recorded history: I’d be greatly surprised to learn that the phenomenon does not in fact occur with every generation: some members of every cohort will not perform as well economically as their immediate ancestors.

      • Bluejay2fly

        Government regulations, crippling taxes, and government mandated expenses (IE car insurance etc) have made it terribly difficult to create wealth as in the old days. Imagine getting the permitting for river rouge in California or NY? Worst of all we are grossly over populated which is a phenomena that did not exist in America but in Europe ,which accounted for that mass migration in the past. You also did not need a college degree for every stupid little job that comes down the pike. My father who retired after 40 years, without even a HS diploma, was replaced by an engineer.

    • Kathy

      I think that’s absolutely it. If you looked at the job market today, what wouldn’t make you think you had no future unless you had a 4.0 GPA at Harvard and lots of internships?

  • Irv

    I have worked with struggling teens for more than 40 years. I now wake up at midnight and, after a strong cup of coffee, communicate with teens who have not yet finished their homework. They are stressed, depressed and even suicidal. We are destroying our youth.

    • georgepotts

      We are also destroying our planet.

  • James

    I don’t recall being all that stressed as a teenager and that was only 10 years ago. Has the economy really affected teens that much?

    • Ray in VT

      I wonder what, if any, role the push for standardized testing and the pressure that that creates, as well as the online environment, where so many kids are plugged in and on for so much of the time, may be playing.

      • Bluejay2fly

        Standardized testing is a sorting mechanism because their are not enough places in the market for people and the applicant pool is too large and unmanageable. Imagine if you had a teaching position and 200 people apply for it what would you do interview all of them?

        • Richard Hussong

          I wouldn’t. I would choose a manageable subset at random and consider only them. At least the process would be fair.

          • Bluejay2fly

            Many would sort by school, grade point average, or some other criteria which would not necessarily ensure the best candidate.

        • Give_Me_Liberty_92

          the problem is that you start testing too early, in Grade 3. and you expect them to perform. you overload the kids with work and expectations, then you are surprised if they crack under the load when adolescence and its physiological swings ensues.

          who wouldn’t after 10 years of pressure? they are all stressed, unluckily a few just crack and die

      • hellokitty0580

        I think it definitely creates pressure. A young girl of a family I am close with was worried 2 years ago about standardized testing in 4th grade when she was in 2nd grade. She is a brilliant girl, top of her class. She shouldn’t be worrying about stupid standardized testing. I, myself, remember getting horrible stomachaches about standardized testing when I was in elementary school. It wasn’t worth it because those tests mean nothing in my life now.

        • Ray in VT

          I think that it creates more stress for some than for others. My older son is in the 4th grade, and while he can be a bit high strung, he doesn’t seem to have any stress about whatever test it was that he had this year. He just went in, banged it out and didn’t say anything more about it.

          • hellokitty0580

            Right. And that points to how are education system is failing kids too. One-size-fits-all education doesn’t work. I remember taking my teacher’s statements about “absolutely having to do well on standardized testing” as the gospel truth and imagining that I’d be condemned to failure forever if I didn’t do well on that particular test. But that was because I was good, rule-following little girl. No one really had to impress on me the importance of the test because it was already important to me by means of it just being a test. But some kids do need that extra push. Why is it that in such an advanced society we can’t figure out how to create more specialized testing for kids with different personalities? This might decrease stress and improve educational standings.

          • Ray in VT

            Yeah, I don’t think that standardized tests are all that useful. I think that kids should have a basic set of knowledge standards, but it seems that the tests are more about trying to quantify education, and some of the great things about learning just can’t be measured in that sense. I think that my son’s school has tried to vary aspects of education there in a way that works better for some kids, but they also have to cover the bases and do some of the “teach to the test”. I think that my older son wants to do well on the tests, because he wants to prove to people that he is smart, but I don’t think that he worries about not doing well, perhaps in part because he has always been a sponge for knowledge.

          • HonestDebate1

            Bingo. Your son will fare well with that approach.

            I’m not so down on the testing because I really think public schools need to be measured in terms of effectiveness. I don’t know how else to do that.

            I took a course to get my commercial contractors license and it was all about taking the astonishingly devious test and not at all about construction. In fact the job of a contractor is not so much about construction as it is passing a series of test. The point is, there can be a real life benefit to the test.

          • Ray in VT

            I think that there needs to be some sort of testing, but maybe not as much, or as high stakes ones, as there is now. As useful as tests can be, I think that they are somewhat limited. There’s only so much that one can measure by filling in ovals and such, and some people just don’t test well. The concern that I hear from quite a few teachers is that they are compelled to focus on only what is on the test, and it rather focuses on memorization, so there is a loss of creative and imaginative thinking and teaching that can really inspire kids. I think that some of the sorts of tests the students get in college, which can contain essays where students can write at length on a subject, can be more useful in measuring someone’s command of subject matter, but such things are somewhat more subjective and they are more labor intensive on both ends, so they likely wouldn’t easily work at lower levels where millions of kids are getting tested and evaluated in a short period of time.

    • adks12020

      Exactly what I was thinking. I may be a little older (32) but I graduated from high school in 2000 and beyond the normal stresses of being a hormone fueled teenager I don’t remember being super stressed out. I was always busy with sports, clubs, etc. but it didn’t rattle me much. Although school work was always pretty easy for me and I had supportive parents that didn’t go crazy if I had a minor lapse in performance.
      I tend to think that social media, cell phone., etc. has more of an effect than the economy. I mean, seriously, how many teenagers do you remember knowing that thought about the economy on a regular basis? I was more concerned with wining a soccer game or track race or what I was going to do for fun with my friends on the weekend. Social media though seems to place constant pressure on kids by giving them constant comparisons, realistic or not (we all know people inflate things on social media), to others.

  • Coastghost

    Too many interventions, too much therapy, too many neurotic anticipations of problems that may or not come to pass if left not addressed, and FAR too many pharmaceuticals in circulation: perhaps the problem that needs to be addressed first is not whatever stress teens themselves are subject to: how much stress do parents afflict their children with in their manic zeal to perfect their children?
    Psychotherapy is its own psychopathology, that is.

  • dfg

    I expect the big difference now has to do with smartphones, social websites, texting, emails and the rest.

    When I was a teen, there was none of that. You interacted with your family and friends face-to-face with a short phone call or two mixed in. Interaction with people was a matter of presence that often/usually involved an activity. No one “multi-tasked’. This is what evolution prepared us and our bodies to cope with. And, as I recall, that was quite enough.

    Many today, including adults, are being overloaded with information and communications that we cannot cope with, yet seem compelled to engage in. If you don’t want your kid to suffer from stress overload, take their cell phone away, hand them a book (a real book, you know, the thing with paper pages) or a ball, or have them take the dog for a walk. We need to refocus on what’s real in life. And that doesn’t include facebook and texting.

    • hellokitty0580

      I agree that this is a problem for sure. Way too much technology taking over every aspect of life. But I also think we push too much STUFF onto kids. They always have to busy with something, an activity. I think there’s very little time for kids to just goof around and for it to not reflect permanently on them. Play is actually a really crucial part of development, but nowadays culture is all about efficiency and the best usage of time. And of course if something is good let’s do it to the extreme until it’s actually unhealthy. I recently heard on NPR about child sports injuries are on the rise for younger and younger children. Isn’t that the antithesis of childhood and adolescent? Isn’t being a child all about a time to be inefficient and to explore with no reason other than for just the sake of exploration?

      • TFRX

        “Isn’t being a child all about a time to be inefficient and to explore with no reason”

        Can’t come up with the comic’s name, but I remember a standup once saying said “All this focus on quality time with my family? Hey, what about some good ol’ lazy quantity time (with my kids)?”

    • Kathy

      No, it’s not that. That’s just the usual discomfort of the old with the culture and technology of the young.

      Kids in the 60s were messed up because of Rock and Roll and transistor radios.

  • georgepotts

    This program will devolve into why human beings are destroying Gaia, the Earth Goddess.

    • northeaster17

      Maybe the destruction of Gaia is a significant cause of these problems. The cause of most problems. You probably invest in and take good care of your lawn. That’s great, but when you mock what we are doing to the rest of this planet you show what many suspect. Life on earth is a fools errand, that is controlled by fools. It’s a pity.

    • kyrishea

      Yes, sadly, an overlooked point. The external projection of our collective inner condition is evident everywhere. The question is how to reconnect with our source and teach ourselves and our children to turn inward. The route cause of all turmoil, stress, unhappiness, etc. can be traced to our unconscious guilt, fear and rage over the separation from God/Goddess/Spirit/Source/Universal Inspiration. Connecting to nature, the earth/Gaia, is an excellent place to start raising the awareness and start the healing process.

  • georgepotts

    In Europe, teenagers don’t have stress. Their parents have 8 weeks of vacation, so the teenagers get to enjoy life. Their parents can’t get fired, because of employment laws. European teenagers don’t have to worry about a job, because of generous social programs.

    They also don’t have to worry about illegal immigrants taking their jobs, because they don’t allow illegal immigrants to live in their country, let alone work.

    • Give_Me_Liberty_92

      well, actually,….youth unemployment is 41% in Italy, 58% in Greece, 55% in spain, 29% in Ireland, 25% in france, 21% in UK, 22% in Belgium..(compare to the 16% in the US) southern Europe is swamped with illegal immigrants, all moving to northern Europe…their parents are loosing jobs to globalization at a rate of hundreds of thousands per week….

      The real difference is that here you start seriously stressing kids by the time they start kindergarten, with high stake standardized tests all the way to high school graduation and with an insanely dense and highly scripted curriculum. and you feel the pressure of parents who start pipelining their kids into “good” schools, sometime spending thousands for that. and you start creating this class divide among kids, which increases to the overall peer pressure and you tell them that their college future -and income- is at stake.

      the system then is replicated among adults.

      In Europe we would start feeling some academic pressure perhaps in the second year of high school, a bad score in the final exam would not compromise admission to even the most superb of the public universities. we could be ourselves while growing up.

      And we would start cranking up the engine of academic rigor when we were mature enough to take the load.

      Instead here we have these radio shows where clueless parents, physicians and journalists wonder why they kids are stressed…as if some mysterious disease was in the air: they should all look at the mirror, the cause is looking at them.

      you wanna change? change the way you conceive schools and the curriculum. In some european countries the kids go to school at age 7, the curriculum is simplified and more focus, their first test is at age 11, they begin serious academic work when they are 16 and their scores are way better than the US international surveys…

      we could still be the economic powerhouse we are without ruining generations of kids.

  • georgepotts

    Sounds like a self-serving result for this survey. Stress isn’t a problem. Believing that stress is a problem is the problem.

    • Ray in VT

      I’ll make sure to tell my doctor that the next time that he asks me about my stress levels as he checks my blood pressure.

  • Sandstone3

    This is a multi pronged issue. There’s this age of immediate gratification. [some of these statements are generalized admittedly] People are challenged to save up for/wait to buy something and/or deny kids something they ask for. There was no such thing as everyone having their own TV/PC-laptop-tablet/phone (cell or otherwise). Youth keep these phones on 24/7 (read: while they should be sleeping)

    Growing up in an era of ‘everyone gets a trophy’ has not exposed youth to true disappointment. Sometimes, not EVERYONE should get a trophy; there really is only one winner.

    Children not given boundaries (turn the phone off, you’re not going to so-and-so’s house,etc) has created an environment where the perverbial ‘village’ does not raise the child (i.e.telling a child it’s NOT appropriate to run around a grocery store or restaurant, not getting a job/into a college)

    Next, parents/school administrators/teachers working TOGETHER rather than undermining the true objective of forming an adult. My partner teaches. I won’t bore you with her experiences. Some of what these kids live with is tragic (the beatings that someone mentioned, adults needing to choose between heat & food, drugs/alcohol in the home as examples). Someone in the home working with the student puts them LEAPS and BOUNDS ahead of others.

    One thing I do see coming out of common core is making the student demonstrate that s/he can THINK. I see that lacking in those raised more recently than I have. This is evidenced in the confused look that some cashiers give you when you give them some amount of coinage with a grocery bill that doesn’t line up with the coinage total on the bill. There are just so many places this can be seen.

    • Sandstone3

      argh – my spacing didn’t take!

  • adks12020

    Wait? Kids with unscheduled time have parents that are disengaged? When did that happen? My parents were engaged in my life fully and my parents never scheduled any of my time. I played sports because I wanted to. I played in band because I wanted to. I never had any extracurricular activities that my parents “scheduled” for me. I spent a lot of my free time in the summer and on the weekends doing whatever I felt like doing with my friends. I always felt bad for those that had overbearing parents that scheduled them so much that they couldn’t enjoy their free time.

    • Kathy

      I think we are turning a corner on this, but really for a good decade, if you weren’t a helicopter parent who managed and scheduled every aspect of your child’s life, it was tantamount to child abuse.

      • Bluejay2fly

        My sister poured so much effort into her four children’s soccer lives that she became a coach, built a full sized goal in the back yard, sent them to camps in England, and drove all over the universe to games. Surprisingly, none of them never earned a living playing soccer and they now all have expensive educations and work outside their fields in slug jobs. Worst of all their soccer “career” failed to teach them anything about team work, discipline, the joy of fitness, or how to accept victory and defeat with grace and dignity. All that time and effort was spent on meaningless structure. The first and most important teachers in every child’s lives is their parents and if they are failed human beings the odds of them raising something better than themselves are very long.

  • Bluejay2fly

    Here is a thought. Many teens are the products of parents who have sheltered and essentially spoiled their children. You cannot grow up being the object of worship and be prepared for this harsh world. In this sense parents are not doing their job properly because they want to be their child’s best friend or their buddy.

    • Ray in VT

      I think that there is something to that. I think that parents need to let kids take more risks and fail more, as failure can be a great teacher. I think, also, that many parents are trying to smooth out all of the bumps in their kids and make them be liked they are “supposed” to be. Kids also need the space to be themselves. My boys are quirky and very particular in some of their ways. Sometimes it can be a struggle, but we want to let them be who they are, not always who we want them to be.

    • adks12020

      Very true. I have a 30 year old cousin that is a product of that type of upbringing. He’s very smart and capable yet can’t hold down a job, still relies on his parents to partially support him, refuses to do anything he doesn’t want to do and is a basket case because he thinks more of himself and his abilities than others do. He was always told how great he was and when real life hit him after college he couldn’t adjust. I’m hoping he will come around soon. His parents are both in their late 60s and have heart conditions. He can’t continue to rely on them.

      • Sandstone3

        While I ‘liked’ this comment and totally agree, cost of living is a true factor.

        • adks12020

          You’re right but there are choices there too. In this case a person choosing to live in a place that is unaffordable for no real reason other than it’s the cool place to live. He could be doing what he’s doing from a different location and saving his parents some money.

          • Sandstone3

            I completely agree. People in general need to learn to live within their means (which raises another point – people don’t know how to make a budget – general statement here). I will say that there are times, too, when children should be nudged out to be independent (goes to forming a functioning, self supporting adult)

    • Sue Leroux

      I believe that “spoiling” is a sinister trap that tells kids, “I will shower you with stuff because I can’t shower you with time. In return, you will give me something to brag about, and if you can’t you, you will know and feel what a disappointment you are to me.”

  • hellokitty0580

    It wasn’t that long ago that I was a teenager. I remember taking tough high school classes, peer pressure, the extracurricular activities and holding down a part-time job. I got abysmal levels of sleep and was constantly stressed out, worried about grades and friends and family problems and society’s expectations of the person I should be… It was horrible! I was so stressed out all the time. I was depressed often and found myself not wanting to live because I was often struggling to enjoy my life so what was the point. It’s a time of my life I’d never want to go back to. You couldn’t pay me enough money.

    I feel bad for young people today because I think it’s probably gotten even worse with technology increasing and everything nearly always being instantaneous and the flow of information and what kids are exposed to. I think people who say teens need to learn to make their stress work for them are … insane. The levels at which most kids are experiencing stress are unhealthy. Yes, there is a healthy amount of stress everyone needs. It makes you resilient and strong. Bu this is unnecessary excess. I think we need to start looking at society and cultural. What are the values we are bestowing to our children and why is it necessary for kids to grow up so very fast? Why are we telling our children that “perfect” is the only acceptable way to be, to be “It” and “All” and “Everything”? No one is that. Adult worries and responsibilities come fast enough.

  • http://argonnechronicles.blogspot.com/ Dee

    I graduated high school 30 years ago and I do remember being stressed. I had a slate of demanding classes, lots of homework, I was on the school newspaper, and a job. It was stressful. Today, kids have even more homework. College has gone from a plus to being required. Extra curriculars are a requirement if you expect to get into ANY college, plus most schools require service hours (a good thing – but it does add to it). Jobs are scarce and families have a hard time making ends meet. Sports are a multi-day/week commitment. Starting in elementary, sports teams finish some nights at 9pm and kids have to go home and start homework. Parents are stressed out trying to keep jobs, keep up with their kids activities & homework, and there’s little to no quiet family time or even quiet friend time. We’ve taken the fun out of being a teen. It’s all about doing. Like the adults, we’ve lots the margin in life to rest, relax, hang out, and chill.

  • creaker

    They’ve got it all backwards. Stress is not the problem – it’s the problems (perceived problems vs. real problems is a whole other discussion) and the inability to deal with and manage them that cause stress. Stress is a symptom of bigger issues. Treating symptoms does not fix underlying issues. We need to look at and deal with the causes of stress.

  • Coastghost

    Is Dr. Race suggesting that Hollywood is a horrible babysitter? that Twitter and Facebook are pernicious babysitters? that our media outlets are all incapable of anthropological truth-telling?

  • monicaroland

    Great program today. I’m a former journalist and retired reading teacher. School is a huge stressor, for kids at the top of the academic heap and for those with lesser academic skills. I taught the latter. I will say this until I’m blue in the face: Many students do NOT need to attend a four-year college to have a successful life. Meanwhile, there is incessant pressure for them to do so. I had lovely students who could succeed very well with a technical/vocational/career track or two-year college certificate program. However, they believed they *should* attend four-year highly academic colleges — and there was no way they could ever succeed there. Now Common Core is blasting away at these students, with curriculum and tests that are just too difficult for them. It is destroying them even at the middle school level. Many drop out of high school.

    When will we learn that we need many *different* career paths and set up more career/technical/vocational educational programs? Or partner with businesses for career internships, as the Germans do? I am passionate about these issues.

    And then the students at the *top* of the academic heap are under another kind of pressure: They believe they *must* attend a *top* college, and they overbook themselves with sports and other activities until they are exhausted.

    These are serious issues.

  • Sandstone3

    How can we help? As ADULTS, LEAD BY EXAMPLE

    • brettearle

      You mean, lead by example–when many adults are in bad shape, as well?

      • Sandstone3

        I guess the big thing I mean here – turn off the technology, don’t be so distracted.
        I do know that many adults are part of the problem you note. Those of us who can apply common sense, set boundaries, teach life lessons and so on (because there are some out there) need to.

        • brettearle

          My `subtext’ point, in my comment above, is not especially cheerful–and everyone is welcome to disagree; but I challenge anyone to prove the following comment wrong:

          If adults do not know themselves well; if they are struggling with personal issues themselves–whether it be psychological or financial–then please tell me why they have the right to put other human beings on this planet–when Life is difficult enough as it is, without having role models who, themselves, are in varying degrees of serious disarray?

          I literally can think of very few things that are more sinister [Although, surely, there are some--but not many.]

          • Sandstone3

            I completely agree that adults who are not prepared to parent should not have children. I’ll get shot for this, but if we bring children into such situations, does the ‘cost’ (societal + financial) exceed the ‘benefit’ (independent adult who, standing on their own two feet, is able to contribute to society and cares for things beyond their immediate existence)?

            Now, this is NOT to say that there are not younger (than me) people today who qualify for what I state above. But, then we do have to consider economic imbalance. For those at the very bottom of the socio economic ladder, this can seem insurmountable. Lower middle class – it is possible to do if one does not succumb to providing everything they possibly can for ‘Junior’.

            One thing that bugs me – Where my partner teaches, there are SO MANY CASES where two adults produced one or more children and one of the two adults (usually the male) has moved on to create children with another woman. This occurs numerous times with numerous women (so, the mothers have children from multiple men as well). What bugs me is are the parents not living with their offspring paying child support? I would love stats on how common it is that they do/do not pay child support (as set by the court or because it’s ‘the right thing to do’). This is a huge issue.

          • brettearle

            Thanks for your response….

            But, for me, to discuss socio-economic issues and issues such as multiple children from multiple partners, as well as child support, is to get far ahead of the core issue.

            No matter WHAT WALK OF LIFE, we, as adults, are coming from, it is INCUMBENT upon us to KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING.

            To have children, simply for THE SAKE OF HAVING CHILDREN, to my way of thinking, is NEARLY insane….

            unless you fully know who you are;

            if you are at peace with yourself;

            if you are willing to communicate carefully with your children;

            and you are well-adjusted financially….

            Otherwise, to have children is utterly unfair and unjust–to both the parents and especially to the children.

            Just HOW MANY of us Adults fit these categories, listed above?

            HOW MANY?

          • Sandstone3

            I do see your point. I guess I was expecting pushback from others on the comment to the effect of ‘well, if you have MONEY of course you can do this’. But, and this is your point, no one can know how content some of the wealthier actually are? Only the individual themselves can assess this. Having children for the sake of having children is not helpful.

          • brettearle

            Not only that, but we as adults cannot possibly know what some of the terrible difficulties or challenges might befall a child–over which we have no control.

            What if the child is born with a physical disability or a predisposition to serious mental illness?

            What if the child is born with an inborn genetic flaw that could lead to serious or fatal illness in one’s teens or twenties?

            What if the child naturally has social adjustment problems that having nothing to do with how the child is raised?

            What about, God forbid, tragic accidents or bad luck?

            What if the child is naturally unhappy, undisciplined, prone to duplicitous or even criminal behavior; or resents rules or authority?

            So many problems, that a child can have, might have NOTHING to do with the parents.

            And so when you combine all of this together–that which the parents can make worse and that which the child is struggling with, anyway–I, unfortunately, see the combination of factors as a high-risk recipe for disaster.

            People might want to call me an alarmist and a pessimist.

            But I see it as being realistic.

            Thanks for engaging….

  • MurielV

    The big problem in this country regarding mental health is that first, mental health sufferers are still ostracized so they do not seek medical help; Secondly, mental health practitioners, psychiatrists are very expensive and many do not accept insurance. When my son suffered from anxiety and depression I called more than 10 psychiatrists. Most of them did not accept new patients, but then if you insisted, some of them asked you if you could pay out of pocket (without insurance) and suddenly it seemed that they could accept new patients. When we finally found a doctor who accepted new patients and accepted our insurance, she let us know from the get-go that this was her last year accepting insurance. After a year, her rate became $174 per 50 minute session (not reimbursed by insurance). Who can afford that kind of money when the patient needs to see the doctor once a week?

  • brettearle

    With all the problems, already raised in the program, one wonders whether having a family, for most, is more of a curse than a blessing.

    If couples are plagued with all kinds of challenges in their lives, before having children–and we can assume that many couples have their own share of enormous stresses, without children–then how responsible is it, really, to have children….unless and until a husband and a wife are already sound financially and psychologically?

    And even then, aren’t having children a major risk?

    Where is the joy? Where is the fulfillment?

  • northeaster17

    To all those back in the my day pontificators and the simplistic to caustic snipes……If it was only so easy… I may have my own ideas about kid’s and stress but my folks never understood certain aspects of my youth.
    How can so many elders be so blind to the fact that the young do not live in our world. Their world is the future that we are not part of and our past is long gone. One thing is certain. Our youth follow behind us, watch us and emulate us. I think that’s the first clue. Now if you’ll excuse me while I go off to dry my eyes and enjoy a good sniffle.

  • creaker

    Parents that can’t manage stress or whatever causes it can’t teach their kids how to.

  • skelly74

    Children and teens are only mirroring the fabricated stress in the adult population for all the reasons mentioned, and passed to the next generation.

    Children live in a fantasy world and deal with their stress in fantastic avenues- escaping reality.

    Meditation should be a required class throughout public education.

  • Kathy

    I wonder if the reason kids are seeking only perfection is that in a time when opportunity is contracting, in order to even have what their parents had, kids today have to be perfect?

  • Coastghost

    Oooh, we’re suffering from a STRESS CRISIS!! (more caps, more exclamation points, higher volume more of the time: 24/7/365 is just NOT enough time for our media to induce alarm)

    • nj_v2

      ^ As if his previous efforts to look foolish weren’t successful.

  • LinRP

    Let’s start with the celebration of Tiger Mom and adoption of that kind of parenting pressure as Exhibit A of why our teens are stressed and a mess.

  • Christina ONeill

    The assessment of perfect or nothing is not new. The missing component in today’s teen life is the lack of testimony from older generations who persevered against obstacles.

  • iccheap

    For teens I think there is a large dichotomy for competitive students versus teens not seeking post secondary education. I think it’s less about internal motivation, for many, than the external drivers – which is a real travesty. I don’t see it producing the quality of life one should have to be a good citizen. It’s not good enough to have great grades and high test scores. All one needs to do is look on-line at the obsession with optimizing credentials for college acceptance. To what end?

  • kodfish

    Yesterday as I drove my 14 yr old son to school- 2 hours late due to digestive issues, he cried and said he had no friends. He tests well, but procrastinates. I push him gently but cannot do the work for him. For me, a huge issue, is that internet and social media makes things 1000 times worse- there is a perception that “everyone else” is doing wonderfully, having the times of their lives. There is always a way to distract a procrastinator too- mostly video games for boys, but chatting on snap chat or FB for girls. A few years ago, one could place the family computer in a common area but now there are tables, laptops, iPods and phones everywhere.

    • iccheap

      yes, tough to see your children in that situation. As adults we recognize those “projections of perfection” on social media are BS, but to teens that doesn’t resonate. I find the penetration of social media, and it’s pernicious presence in every minute of life, disturbing. I clearly realize there has always been concern for the younger generation by the older generation, but down time and reflection are markedly less prevalent than at any time in our collective history. I don’t see it playing out well.

  • kokyjo

    Is going into your mother’s purse and taking her Oxicontin any different than your child getting your gun out of the closet and using on herself and/or others?
    The relevant question is “What values lead adult parents to stockpile weapons in their closet and pain killers in their purse?” Maybe the kids are just carrying the stress that parents/adults are unwilling to deal with directly themselves!

  • drwacker

    It’s true, we adults are pushing a culture of “perfection”. Just look at the news reporting… people who cannot accept the consequences of the extreme weather, complaining because the utilities haven’t done enough to prevent power outages and seeking to place blame and demanding heads roll. Even on Morning Edition today, the comment was made that implied that the revenge killings in Central African Republic SHOULD HAVE BEEN foreseen and prevented. Really, how could anyone have foreseen the evil that would take over?

  • Floyd Blandston

    One of the things I am proudest of having taught my (College Freshman) daughter is “Failing with Grace” (and a modicum of style!) through her continuation in individual sports in which she did not excel. By not letting her quit, and pointing out the real value of the activity (physical fitness, cameraderie, and personal challenge) she developed resilience, optimism, and an understanding that on a certain level, ‘everyone sucks’.

    Allow your children to fail brilliantly at something, model personal resilience for them, and you will have helped them more than attempting to ensure their delicate egos aren’t bruised by streamlining their way through life.

    • kokyjo

      Beautiful. Thank You. I agree.

      • Floyd Blandston

        Your welcome, and thank you for the compliment!

  • Valeriezoe

    I’m amazed that kids do as well as they do with what they’re given to work with. From my reading of neuroscience, the human brain goes thru 2 “pruning” periods, one when we’re about 5 and the second about the time we reach adolescence. The brain essentially trims back a lot of the peripheral neurons, the less-used ones, which invigorates those that remain, the important root stock. This is possibly an explanation for some of the erratic behavior teens display.

  • Coastghost

    Well, if a psychologist as cunning as Mr. Bradley invokes magic as a metric for treating stress, we should all sleep stress-free tonight . . . .

  • Elizabeth_inMKE

    I’m interested in any associations between stress level and demographic variables — were there differences by gender, socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, age, etc?

  • kokyjo

    Anger and stress can be the most creative energies. Because adults are unable to experience the opportunity that stress/anger presents, their children remain stuck. Parents must learn to look for the opportunity hidden in this painful life. It really is about FAITH. The concept of faith has certainly evolved over the generations. Faith is like diarrhea. If parents catch it, they will naturally and willfully pass it along to their children.

  • skelly74

    The bombardment of materialistic necessities are stressful.

    Even NPR helps foster this ridiculous materialistic environment with the “need” to purchase overpriced roses.

    We can’t teach our children the motto ” do as a say, not as I do”.

    We are all hypocrites racing to the unknown.

    • skelly74

      Quick! Get your flowers! Time is running out! Just two hours to go!

      Don’t stress, but hurry up! Time is running out.

  • Coastghost

    Who has written the bestseller titled “Yes, Your Psychotherapist Is Deranged and Demented”?

  • Elizabeth_inMKE

    I’m interested in whether there were any associations between stress levels and demographic variables — did stress vary by gender, age, socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, etc?

  • Ed Lazor

    The key is balance. Competition to succeed is too the point of fantasy. Add to this there seems to be no middle ground between empathy and indifference. As Americans our children our inundated with images of success without exposure to the lifestyle needed to achieve that success.

  • Sue Leroux

    Your caller made it occur to me that kids have no time, place or encouragement to stop, quiet, think, dream, relax. I hated going to church every single Sunday of my life, but when I look back, it was the perfect opportunity to rest my body and mind, or launch a plan for my future. When do kids today EVER get the chance or the encouragement to stop, rather than go?

    • iccheap

      Or, when they do, do they immediately retreat to their phone/ipod/ipad?

  • Coastghost

    But Dr. Race: the whole import of modernity has been to kill God and free humanity from the deleterious effects of tradition and history. If modernity has failed to provide commensurate valuations regarding ethics or morality or spirituality or piety, we can hardly blame modernity for the omissions: modernity has cured us of any regard for our respective pasts, thus the mania over how to orient oneself towards the future (which in itself does not exist).

    • Ray in VT

      Tomorrow doesn’t exist? Phew. Now I can stop stressing about that dentist appointment next week and stop looking at where we should stay on vacation this summer, because that is in the future, which does not exist.

      • Coastghost

        IF the future in fact exists, it has a present circumstance. If our present circumstance has not in fact occurred, however, the future has no claim to make in terms of baryonic matter. (The Fermi Paradox continues to confirm that neither extraterrestrials nor our distant descendants presently exist. I subscribe to the Growing Block Universe hypothesis because it seems to account for the human experience of time so well.)
        Temporality consists of the present extending itself into the future: it does not consist of a pre-packaged future arriving to greet us with glee and stress-free living.

        • Ray in VT

          The future will happen, regardless of whether or not any current predictions of what might occur bear out. I don’t think that the Fermi Paradox really confirms anything. One can speculate based upon it, but a lack of evidence isn’t really evidence.

          We didn’t get our flying cars, but things like datapads and communicators were Star Trek fiction in the not too distant past. Things will change. They always have. Sometimes we can spot the changes coming. Sometimes we can’t, but until I see evidence that suggests otherwise, I’m pretty sure that tomorrow will happen, as will the day after that, as will the day after that, etc.

          • Coastghost

            Ray, you amaze me! I hear faith speaking, not sturdy empiricism! Are you sure you don’t prefer revelation to speculation?

          • Ray in VT

            If you have some evidence to suggest that the sun will not in fact rise tomorrow as it has for all of known history, then please feel free to provide it. Lacks any such evidence, it seems as though the only logical conclusion to reach is that it will, just as I expect gravity to continue to function as it has. That is based upon experience and observation. To doubt such things, based upon current conditions, seems to me to be the near pinnacle of foolishness.

          • Coastghost

            Yet we hear it all the time: “past performance provides no guarantee of future results”.
            I’m stressed enough as it is, Ray: please don’t tempt me to abandon empiricism!

          • Ray in VT

            So, what would be the basis for concluding that there will not be a tomorrow based upon the empirical evidence from every day of your life up to this point? Stock performances aren’t guaranteed, but there are few things as sure as the sun rising in the morning.

          • Coastghost

            Mind you, I’m not predicting solar failure: I’m only adhering to the tried-and-true methods of our valorized empiricism. (Valorized empiricism, by the way, discounts the notion that our sun ever “rises”: you’d have to consult Copernicus or Galileo for the details, I am no astronomer.)

          • Ray in VT

            The sun rising is, of course, a perception that we have as earth bound being. Seeing as how you aren’t predicting solar failure, do you see any evidence that our side of the planet will not rotate in such a way as to expose it to the sun in some 16 or 17 hours? Lacking any evidence for an alteration of either scenario, one can logically conclude that what has happened every roughly 24 hours for millions of years will once again happen tomorrow.

          • Coastghost

            It would take but a pitifully small asteroid to bring the requisite disruption, and we KNOW (that is, we are told with confidence) that asteroids and other cosmic debris lurk in the dark: at this point an asteroid strike any day now seems just as likely as the planet’s unimpeded rotation, and much more likely than a solar failure.

          • Ray in VT

            And how many major asteroid strikes occur per year, century or millennium? It seems like your computations may be a bit off.

            By all means, then, go ahead and plan on not waking up tomorrow. Just blow all of your cash today and stop paying your bills, as, by your estimates, it’s 50/50ish whether or not there will be a tomorrow. Sounds like a solid, soundly based, course of action.

          • Coastghost

            While I am certain many disagree, I think frankly we’re overdue for a globe-altering cosmic collision, the Cretaceous extinction occurred over 65 million years ago, and it’s often hard to think we’re more deserving than the poor dinosaurs.

          • Ray in VT

            It could happen, but I’m not going to pencil it in on my calendar and attempt to plan accordingly. I’m planning on taking that summer vacation and planning upon the need for my brother to need to feed his livestock next winter, so we’re getting ready for this planting season, which is a course of action that any prudent farmer would take. Again, if you want to act in accordance with the possibility that there will be no tomorrow, then go ahead and let me know how that works out, grasshopper.

          • brettearle


            The inevitability of advanced civilizations having already recognized our existence might be highly probable.

            But, indeed, they have likely asked themselves the same question that Maureen Dowd asks, when she thinks about men:

            Is Earth Necessary?

            [In other words, these extraterrestrials remark, phlegmatically, "Don't even bother..."]

            Your summer vacation is a safe bet.

            [How about a time-share? I'll give up our place in Boston, for yours in Vermont, for a weekend?

            Or, failing that, how about our place in Boston, for you arranging a weekend stay for us, at the Woodstock Inn?

            Just make sure ET isn't there.]

  • MatthewNashville

    Could this be a result of the trickle down economics not working?

    • tbphkm33

      No, heresy – how can you blame it on voodoo economics :)

  • Coastghost

    The only thing, the ONLY thing, highly stressed teens need is: access to OFF buttons for all of their helpful disorienting gadgets.

    • Kathy

      And no more of that terrible rock and roll music! Hell in a handbasket!

      • Coastghost

        Truly: rock ‘n’ roll died of old age decades ago. (The animate corpse of rock ‘n’ roll, its dread persistence, undoubtedly has added stressors of its own for today’s teens.)

        • Bigtruck

          You should put that on a sign and stand on a busy corner. You can be that crazy guy. Rock ‘n’ roll will never die, just as Neil he would know.

          • Coastghost

            You mean we’re going to be forced to listen to The Beatles for ANOTHER fifty years?

          • Bigtruck

            Oh I see, you live in the past. Just say NO! you will not listen to the Beatles any more.

          • Coastghost

            Sorry, retail outlets blaring muzak offer me no relief or programming options, just as NPR can’t let a day pass without telling us what happened fifty years ago, day-by-day.

          • Bigtruck


    • MOFYC

      Don’t disagree but it’s kind tough when laptops, Internet and other gadgets are REQUIRED for much of their school and home work.

    • nj_v2

      The Expert speaks!

  • Christina ONeill

    Another thing… the comment that the U.S. middle class is disappearing — immigrants started businesses then in the worst conditions, in which all social classes took a hit. But they were driven to succeed, and enough of them did that we still buy from their companies today. ‘How do I get my start in life’ – Tom’s question — let’s put that in the context of the people who came over on the boat and who were asking the same question.

  • Yar

    Stress is fight or flight, The worst thing we can do in response to flight or flight is to not exercise our muscles. Running gives a place for all that adrenaline to go. We have far too little exercise in our diet. Schools should have at least an hour of physical activity each and every day.

    • tbphkm33

      I agree, the average person is not active enough and this society is not good at teaching people effective ways to release stress. In some parts of the country, local religious groups have even attacked yoga programs in school as being the introduction of eastern religions. Who really cares if yoga teaches people who to effectively manage stress.

  • Sandstone3

    Parents can no longer afford to pay for their child’s education! This has been true for up to if not more than a decade.

    I went to a Simmons College Conference. It was around 2008 crash – I think it was just after. Being sponsored by Simmons, naturally there were several students in the audience. I was the last person to ask a question. My question (prefaced by an apology to all students in the room) ‘Has there been any rumblings of a crisis in the college loan area? Because this is the ONLY thing that can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Has anyone raised this as the next crisis to come?’ Answer: no.
    This kind of reinforces the notion that not everyone needs to go to school

  • iccheap

    As the parent of a teen, I really wonder how these teens will parent. Especially with respect to “screen time”, although who knows what the situation will be by then.

  • kokyjo

    Where are our “wise” elders in this discussion — a little wisdom could be valuable in this discussion. Is it possible that we, as a people, are out of BALANCE? How beautiful it would be if children could enjoy the wisdom and experience of elders!! Is it possible that we have grown out of balance with the corporate weight of targetting the young with some of their ridiculous and dangerous advertisement which consistently says “You’re NOT ENOUGH!”

  • creaker

    Dealing with stress without dealing with stressors is like dealing with the pain in your foot without dealing with the huge splinter stuck in it.

  • Roger Phelps

    one of the things I noticed the guest saying is that we don’t have the time. The problem is we do not make the time. Speaking from experience 20 years ago when my children for now graduating out of college my wife and I decided to have one of the parents stay home. Even though we suffered as a family income wise we always took the high road and look at everything on the bright side. Even though my kids turned out to be high achievers they were very grounded I have two boys were both valedictorian other class 11 to brown one went to tops my daughter school graduate next year from high school is looking for the same level of experience. But sometimes the stress is induced and introduced to the kids from the family unit.

  • Katie Jae Naftzger

    I think that it’s important to ask the questions that are answerable. We can only speculate about what went wrong in the lives and internal experiences of the three teens in Newton who took their own lives this year. But, there is a question which can still be answered by the teens who are still here – the ones who have attempted suicide, the ones who have thought about it, and the ones who would never consider it, and that question is, “What stops you from doing it? What keeps you afloat during these times of incredible academic, social, and family stress?” I am a therapist who works with teens in the Newton area, and this question is such an important one with the teens I see. And, although the answers vary, it really seems to come down to the power of their face-to-face relationships which are fewer and farther between. Most of their relationships are mostly via text, snap chat, Facebook, etc, now. Although there is a lot of drama that can exist via technology, it is difficult to establish real intimacy that is powerful and true. Because, in that moment, it is those relationships that are often the reasons to not do it.

  • BD

    Wow, this hits home. I am a 32 year old woman who was pushed to “succeed” my whole life. As the eldest grandchild, I was told I was smart and needed to be a doctor, lawyer, or even an actuary to “make money.” My first generation Italian-American parents worked diligently to gain a spot in the upper middle class and sent me to a prestigious prep school with high hopes for Ivy education. Without a clear definition of what success meant to my parents, I perceived success to be measured only as a powerful career and financial success. To this day, I put extreme stress on myself to make money and every decision is scrutinized through the microscope of economic outcome. Growing up in the upper middle class, I looked upward toward the wealthy and I continue to stress as I strive to achieve a place in the socio-economic class above which I was raised.

  • James Field

    At our last school board meeting the high school representatives brought up the issue of stress and how to help fellow teens. I believe a big contributor are the tiger moms (not the “coddling” of students.

    • brettearle

      The challenge is to find a balance between support and discipline.

      And unless Adults are first happy with themselves, and are motivated and responsible enough to intervene in careful and thoughtful ways with their children, you can throw greater potential for adjustment to the Adult World, out the window.

  • Erin Webb

    I agree with most of what Tom’s guests are saying about the culture of over-achievement and fear-of-failure– but I do also see some of the tired idolization of the past that always comes up when parents talk about “kids now-a-days.” The fact is that achievement might be more important in today’s world– and failure more dangerous– because young people (especially women) have more OPTIONS than they did in decades past. Having your life path decided for you does, I imagine, forestall a good amount of stress; when you don’t already know what your most important role in life will be (eg, wife and mother), you are more pressed to keep your options open.

  • Expanded_Consciousness

    The snow? The pinging of all those apps? Please.

  • jimino

    The problem is that the “American Dream” has changed from one that provides widespread security, physical and financial, to everyone with a decent work ethic, as well as their offspring, to one that (theoretically) gives everyone the opportunity to be one of the decreasing percentage of very well off while the lot in life of the vast majority suffers. One can’t “muddle through” like previous generations could and still be reasonably likely to have a good, secure life. Thus the stress and pressure to do what is needed from very early on to get into that small cohort, and the frustration that comes from seeing that your skills will never get you there that becomes apparent to many in their late teens that sometimes explodes into violence and other self-destructive behavior.

  • Coastghost

    And who knows whether all of our teens and parents born since 1973 have absorbed surreptitiously the incoherence or inconsistency of parental devotion to offspring when considering in the light of day abortion policy and practice of the last forty years? (Killing the maternal instinct–bodily–is an inevitable outcome of abortion practice, like it or not. Perhaps the trauma and suffering that succeed live birth consists of “the guilt of convenient conception”.)

    • tbphkm33

      “Coastghost” – even for you, that comment is off topic and nutty.

      • Coastghost

        If you think abortion and contraception are so innocent and inconsequential, then let us join in urging women simply to expose their children at birth: newborn infants left untended will not bawl and scream for very long. (I concede this practice could make our canine friends a bit less trustworthy.)

    • NrthOfTheBorder


      • jefe68

        …as a fruitcake.

    • nj_v2

      More screws coming loose and falling out, right before our eyes.

  • StilllHere

    If these kids listen to the news they know that they are trailing far behind their peers across the globe in terms of the outcomes of their educations and these peers will be competing with them for the knowledge jobs of the future. They may be right to be stressed.

    • jimino

      Hey, we agree on something!

      You are correct that those countries that have done what is necessary to provide a foundation of universally available health care and education, have invested in a modern physical and virtual infrastructure, and who are populated by informed citizens who understand their obligation to pay for this foundation for all their fellow citizens, will be the winners.

      Of course, the USA will retain the ability to blow them all to smithereens, which is obviously a comfort to many Americans as they encourage their own country’s demise in the name of “prosperity”.

      • NrthOfTheBorder

        Great points jimino. We can heap great expectations on the upcoming generations but they’ll fall short on fulfilling them if the supporting structures that would sustain their efforts are worn, tattered or corrupt.

  • tbphkm33

    Can you really blame the younger generation. This is in large part results of the across-the-board monumental failures of the Baby Boom generation. Coming on the heels of the Greatest generation (that won WWII), the Baby Boom generation was swaddled and cuddled. They squandered the nations posterity, moral compass and ethics. Leaving the US a dysfunctional mess.

    Now many are even unwilling to go into retirement quietly – read through the nonsense exposed today on this discussion board. One even linking the topic at hand to legalization of abortions(????)

    No the generations after the Baby Boomers (born after 1964) are maturing with social, economic and personal stresses not seen before. The silver lining is that these generations are more united by their collective challenges. The sooner the Baby Boomers (especially the Tea Bagger nut cases) scuffle off to senility, the better off the nation will be.

    • Coastghost

      You can safely dispense with Tom Brokow’s flattery: the WWII generation could NOT have been “the greatest generation” if in fact it produced the effete Baby Boomers: “the greatest generation” (of the 20th century, at least) would instead be the WWI generation, the one that gave birth to the generation that “won” WWII.
      Decline and decadence thus began WITH the WWII generation, which itself did nothing to contest the arrival of no-fault divorce in the 1960s and which adopted uncritically proffered contraception and abortion practice, courtesy of our dutiful medical science establishment.

      • Sandstone3

        My dad was a WWII vet. He grew up DIRT POOR in Cambridge (his dad dug for coal, dad’s ‘bedroom’ was the LR sofa, etc. They didn’t have much of anything). The GI bill let him get a college degree and buy a home. His degree lead to a well paying job.

      • jefe68

        More right wing memes. It’s amazing how every show leads to a diatribe.

    • brettearle

      It’s not that you don’t have good points. You do.

      But you’re forgetting about the Economy and the Global Economy.

      That is far from being the Baby Boomers’ Credit-Default-Swaps’ fault.

      What’s more the advancement of Technology and Media would have created exaggerated expectations and gross misperceptions about the Real World,
      regardless of whether the Baby Boomers drove these “Factories” or not.

      I would also argue that the “Dysfunctional Mess” you allude to–it’s a term I use, periodically, myself–would have happened, in any case:

      Great Empires can be vulnerable to decline, as a consequence of an inevitable drift toward greater complexity and expansion–in political power and in an increased expectation of the quality of life.

      When too many people can’t meet their own expectations–for a slew of reasons–complacency, stagnation, corruption, and moral decline abound.

      While Baby Boomer expectations were aggrandized by the Great Generation of Hope who kissed their Women in Times Square, in 1945, I think this unrealistic drive for, The American Dream, would have failed, repeatedly, anyway.

      [But it is true that the Baby Boomer attitude likely made it worse.]

      Unfortunately, in the next World War, we won’t be seeing any GIs returning from overseas.

    • Sandstone3

      I know this isn’t personal but I was born in 1964. I was raised to be a responsible adult. Live within my means. Don’t accumulate credit card debt and so on.

      In the 1960′s, people retired at 65 and died a couple of years later. That is not the case today. People live decades after they retire. Moreover, they function well. Don’t they have the right to work? Also, some retirees (or close to retirement) HAVE to work to make ends meet. They don’t necessarily WANT to work.

      Lastly, from the 1970′s – 90′s, companies did away with pension plans in favor of 401ks/403bs. Simultaneously, children of WWII veterans wanted or felt compelled to pay for their children’s education. So, they took on debt. And, they weren’t saving (read: adjusting to new reality of no pension) for retirement.
      There’s a lot to this.

  • Sy2502

    Given American students do so poorly academically, compared to the rest of the civilized world, one can’t help wonder what they are stressed about, exactly…

    • http://argonnechronicles.blogspot.com/ Dee

      You need to look at that data appropriately. If you adjust for poverty, we aren’t doing so badly. And countries like Finland, specifically don’t add lots of unnecessary stress to education the way we do, yet they are on top.

    • brettearle

      The anguish of trying to succeed, and not being able to, is more than enough stress to last for years.

      But I wonder where you’re getting your statistics.

      • Sy2502
        • brettearle

          Thanks for the reference.

          Read it.

          It’s not good. That is true.

          However, you are exaggerating about how bad it is.

          • Sy2502

            What did I exaggerate? Please quote my exact words.

          • brettearle

            I am not planning to have a microscopic-in-context-out-of-context mince words debate with you.

            However, your comment, that we do so poorly compared to the rest of the civilized world, based on the numbers, is not completely accurate.

            It is true, however, that we are not doing as well as we need to. And that, it is true, at one time, we ranked higher in most categories.

            But we are not at the bottom.

            Now if you want to win an argument–which is what I suspect your true motive is–suppose we simply declare victory for you now, even though it has been captured under false pretenses?

            You can take the trophy home with you, shine it up and put it on the mantel.

            I am now going on to other things.

            Whether they are bigger and better things, remains to be seen….How’s that for diplomacy?

          • Sy2502

            I don’t ask you to micro analyze my posts, but you asserted I was exaggerating something, I’d like you to point out the exact words you are referring to. Too often posters here give a cursory reading of other posts, decide what the poster meant based not on their words but on their preconceived notions, and run with it. I wanted to make sure that was not your case.
            I never said we are at the bottom, where did I ever say that? I said we are doing poorly, can you dispute? You don’t need to be at the bottom to be mediocre.
            I have no idea what you are talking about in terms of “winning an argument”. There’s no argument to be won, I am presenting hard facts that speak for themselves. You do with them what you wish.
            Just as I said, you are more interested in what you THINK I said than in what I actually said. You are basically getting angry at yourself, that is at your imaginary interlocutor. Good luck to you both.

  • SREM

    My son’s high school has created a support group for stressed out parents and teens. The problem in our community is the AP/IB and dual enrollment courses. These classes cannot function without a heavy workload, as they are college level courses. It is not just the elite and Ivy League schools that are setting their admissions standards at an intolerable level. We got a handout at the beginning of the year from the UCs with a sample “winning” schedule that included 7 class periods junior year, which means taking a zero period class at 7:00 a.m., along with 2 AP courses, 2 honors courses, and theater. They also recommended taking a dual enrollment class at this time. For senior year they recommended 3 AP courses, along with everything else. While the UCs say they will only accept a certain amount of AP classes for college credit, they also say they still look at how many AP classes a student took, as evidence of their academic ability. When a student sees this advice, they figure the more AP courses they can take the better. What I hear from the parents in the group is that they are not comfortable forbidding their 17 or 18 year old from taking the courses they choose, so they are instead helplessly looking on as their child disintegrates under the stress. When I questioned an admissions rep from UCSB about the danger of recommending such a heavy course-load, she let me know that “some kids can handle it.” The message I got was “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen”. The sad thing is that my two kids are high academic achievers…straight A, honors class types of kids. But I have already told them, and continue to tell them, that we are not getting on the crazy train to college. I have let them know they can take one AP course junior year and one AP course senior year, and that’s it. I know this will cause their academic standing to fall, compared to their peers, but it’s simply not worth it. We protect children in so many other ways, with restricted driver’s licenses, sale of liquor and cigarettes, seat belt laws, helmet laws, and yet we don’t feel we can step in an and say no to this harmful trend. I think many of us parents wish there were a way to have our voices heard by the colleges and universities, letting them know they are causing more harm than good. Imagine if the colleges said, “We’re not going to tell you what we’re looking for in an applicant. Just do high school to the best of your ability, concentrating on things that interest you, figuring out what you are passionate about, and showing us that you know how to live a balanced life, not one crammed with meaningless activities.”

  • Barb

    As the parent of a teen, I believe the cost of college is a huge source of stress for teens. Academically accomplished teens want to attend quality colleges, but the cost is prohibitive ($60,000+) for many middle income families. One way to cut the cost is to attend one of a handful of well-endowed colleges that can afford to give enough financial aid so attendance is possible. The competition at these schools is so intense that teens end up overextending themselves to enhance their admission applications. The price they pay is feeling chronically stressed and incompetent trying to meet unrealistic expectations. As a parent, I grieve for my teen’s lost childhood!

    • brettearle


      And somewhat sad and even tragic.

  • Melissa

    Hi Tom! I think it is crucial that we provide these teens with an outlet for their stress. Writing stressful events down has shown time and time again to be effective at preventing stress related health problems. We also need to provide coping methods to our teens outside of writing. If teachers were to instruct students in things like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation then students could utilize these tools. Perhaps teachers could assign stress reducing activities alongside homework or allow students to participate in a deep breathing exercise before exams.

    • brettearle

      How many students do you know who have the patience, for this; or could develop the patience for this?

      It’s a good idea, at least theoretically. But I wonder how successfully it could be implemented.

      • Melissa

        This is precisely my point. As parents and teachers we need to instill this patience in our youth. If you give them an opportunity to practice these coping skills they can perform them. We need to take responsibility and engage them in these types of expressing and calming activities. If they continue to lead high-stress lives with no coping methods instilled they face serious health risks. I.e heart disease and dangerous weight gain in their belly area. These stress related illnesses are preventable if expression, relaxation tools, and even meditation are taught to our children at young ages. Years can literally be added to their lives.

        • brettearle

          I agree.

          But your ideas, which I support, will be subjected to harsh criticism–as many innovative ideas are.

          You will hear protests about how MD’s offices are being brought into the classroom.

          You will hear protests about how `managed care’ for children should be determined and decided by parents at home, not in the school system.

          And, finally, if you EVEN use the word `meditation’, just ONCE, in a formal announcement, not only will it bring up the School Prayer issue, again; but with some fringe fanatics you will hear how Meditation means Mysticism–and therefore, the anti-Harry Potter crowd will declare it to be, potentially, demonic. [Please note that Fundamentalists regard Mysticism as the work of the Devil; and that many associate Meditation with Mysticism.]

          Such is the Ignorance of, a part of, the American Mind…..

  • brettearle

    When program after program fails, chronic panic sets in–which is what you are witnessing.

    The closer that you concede the notion that there may be no real answers–painful though it is–the better off you might be, by accepting the Truth; and by reconciling yourself to the fact that your children will simply have to endure a very misguided Zoo.

    My comments are not intended to depress you or anyone else. I am simply trying to be realistic.

  • J. Francisco

    I have two children, ages 17 and 13. I can categorically say that the standardized testing madness is adding to the problem of stressed kids. Until my daughter was in 4th grade, creative outlets (music, art, writing and reading for joy, self-growth, and recreation) were considered as important as everything else in the curriculum, and it served my daughter well and gave her a good foundation for her future and dealing with stress. Then, with RTTT and teacher evaluations based on test scores, that all changed. Now, in the public schools, art, music, reading for the pure love of reading, recess…all stress-relievers….have been reduced if not completely eliminated, and kids as young as pre-school start out with written tests in gym, standardized testing, being labeled as a number, “college and career readiness” (yikes…they’re only in kindergarten! Whatever happened to creative and free-play time?) and stress from teachers as well (whose job evals are based on those numbers), etc. If only public school teachers were allowed to build stress-relievers into their classes! As for “assigning stress reducing activities alongside homework”…..are you kidding? After being in school for 6-10 hrs. daily (depending on extra-curriculars), with maybe 40 minutes of P.E. (which now includes written tests) two-four times a week and no recess or chance to blow off steam during the day, the kids are given ridiculous homework loads to deal with after school. With the amount of homework given in AP classes in her sophomore year, my daughter got maybe 4-6 hours of sleep per night. No wonder the kids are stressed and sick! She has friends who have taken the SATs five times in search of the almighty highest score! Echoing SREM’s comments below, my son will be following a different track. We will limit the AP classes. Additionally, we will be opting him out of the state tests. When testing (from pre-K to SATs) is no longer the punitive and driving force during most of our kids’ waking hours, but is, rather, done correctly and is only a part of the education process, then I think you will see stress levels go down in teenagers. (And for the record, because my daughter was given the chance in school and and at home to love learning, reading, art and music early in life, they helped her cope through the mess of high school, and she has been accepted at her top choice college with a healthy scholarship.)

    • SREM

      I feel I am one of the only parents in our school who has taken the stance to “just say no” to the AP madness, as well as the trend toward thousands of hours of community service, and enrolling in classes to prepare for the SAT. (I tell my kids to do their best on standardized tests, and then walk away. And we’re not making a career out of the SAT). So glad to hear that other parents are taking a stand, and that your story turned out to have a happy ending. This is encouraging!

  • Jessica Lemus

    Teen stress is a result of the classic “school, tests,college”, but the difference for teens nowadays is the addition of being smothered by electronics; namely social media. There’s a constant barrage of how much fun, happiness, friends, success or material things other people are experiencing. To add to that is the all the tragedy…
    Our kids are over stimulated, period
    I don’t think kids in the past were better adjusted or handled stress better. It’s that our kids now have waaaay more stressors.

  • http://belacqui.tumblr.com/ Belacqui

    When the kids speak, they speak of being stressed, anxious, sad; they speak about themselves, as “being” something. But we adults who must listen to them, speak of “stress.” We explain stress as discrete object, with certain causal relationship to things like “mirror neurons,” and that it can be excised by “stress management skills.”

    Perhaps adults are failing to listen to them. Are we not only hearing “stress,” abstracted from something profoundly more complex? What happens when we explain to kids that “their stress” is such an object? Are we not really saying that they are merely “managed objects,” a glob of “mirror neurons” that are manipulated from outside?

    We “manage” them. What does “management” mean? Management is managing objects. We manage grades, college applications, employees, students. In this frame people are “managed,” as objects. When we tell the kids that they have to manage stress, just as they must manage their grades and whatnot, are we not saying something contradictory, that they must see themselves as external objects?

    • brettearle

      It’s a good point.

      The kinds of words we use are very, very important.

      You are basically pointing out AdultSpeak, wherein we are trying to apply AdultSpeak to children, who are in pain and vulnerable.

      Well, guess what?


      Only difference is most adults DON’T want to admit that they are either in pain or are vulnerable.

      And so what do they do?

      They talk in AdultSpeak.

      So as, to….a`hem…..MANAGE their stress….which is, of course, related to them being in pain and being vulnerable.

      That’s all Adults know. So they foist it upon the young’ens.

      Sad. It’s a failure of the Imagination.

    • HonestDebate1

      I hear you, I really do. But aren’t we overanalyzing things a bit? There’s a life to live, a fresh young one; who’s got time for stress? And if you have to stress, then stress out and gain from the experience. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

      • brettearle

        Ask any cardiac institute, organization, clinic, or cardiologist.

        Stress is one of the greatest deterrents to good health.

        And now it seems that the prevalence of Stress is starting younger; and, at times is overwhelming.

        • HonestDebate1

          I don’t argue that, it’s not my point.

          • brettearle

            On this one, I’m afraid you’re going to need to be told how to think:

            It WAS your point.

          • HonestDebate1

            No, that’s just weird. My point was that a healthy approach to life realizing it’s blessings and opportunities as well as it’s fragile nature is what puts the stress in perspective. The stress is just a symptom of a lack of perspective. My point had nothing at all to do with the health aspects of stress.

      • jefe68

        “Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt.”

        – Mark Twain

        • nj_v2

          Way too late for him. I thought the attribution was Lincoln.

          • Richard Hussong

            It’s been attributed to lots of famous people, but the true source has never been determined, so far as I can tell. Since there are a lot more obscure people than famous ones, it was probably one of us, not one of them.

      • http://belacqui.tumblr.com/ Belacqui

        Perhaps my point was precisely what you said. we are overanalyzing everything, in terrible ways. “Management” involves this overanalysis. Did you know that the word “analysis” comes from a word meaning “to cut?” When we see children showing signs of stress and when we wonder why they are so stressed out, we tend to “analyze” them by isolating a very small part of their being. And when we isolate things, it also means that we are excluding others from consideration. We are in fact cutting something into pieces, and looking at one particular piece as a whole thing.

        Why do we do this? There is a life to live, as you say. Perhaps when we see kids in stress and suffering, we don’t really care about them. Perhaps it’s “stress” and not “the child” we want to do something about. We recognize that it’s “stress” is keeping us from living our own lives, keeping the family going, the school running, the company in business. As you said, who’s really got time to look after children, other people, when we ourselves are stressed out with all other obligations and desires?

        You say “if you have to stress, then stress out.” But it seems rather that there is not even a possibility of choosing not to stress; there is no “have to.” We are all stressed to one degree or another, that seems to come with existing as humans. The problem here seems to be that our current circumstances are stressing us so much that it’s killing you and making you weaker. And we ourselves are not the one gaining from it. It’s always someone else besides you and the kids: schools, parents, and government who get a momentary relief from stress (they barely “manage” to keep going), drug companies that profit from antidepressants and ADHD drugs, and so on.

        • HonestDebate1

          I largely agree with all you wrote. But I don’t there is a lack of concern for kids.

          And yes, stress is in your head. You don’t have to succumb to it. My point about stressing out is that it can also be a powerful tool for achieving a goal. I think that’s good, as long as it does’t become a way of life.

  • MintDragon

    There’s likely several factors going on here. A couple I would point to are the fact that kids are simultaneously overly scheduled and buffered from failure. Add to this the real fact of economic uncertainty and falling wages. It’s all tied together. A kid may be shuttled around from soccer to musical instruments with no space or time for reflection or creatively dealing with boredom. From early childhood education onwards, the emphasis is on academic achievement. For kids in the upper half economically, that might entail overloading on math tutoring and huge loads of homework. For kids in the lower half economically, that might mean that their underfunded schools focus too much on teaching to the test, with little time for connecting broader concepts or the arts. All kids are shorting themselves on sleep and exercise. At the same time, kids are not permitted to fail or lose. Kids may not learn to deal with the feelings that come with failure and losing when they are young and psychologically flexible.

    Part of what drives the stress and competition is the fact that wages have fallen, that is harder to get into and even harder to stay in the middle class. Corporate America has cut benefits and increased the number of layoffs, while wages have not budged. Parents are consciously aware that their kids must seriously exceed the goals of teens in the past, just in order to get a shot at economic security. Add to this the culture’s unhealthy obsession with conspicuous consumption, celebrity millionaire athletes and actors, and the extravagances of the 1%.

    We have to do better for our workers, so that our kids can look forward to an economically secure future. We have to encourage the skilled trades, so that there are economically viable options on the radar for kids who aren’t in the competitive running for Harvard and Yale. The economy overall has to improve. Closer to home, this will enable everyone to relax, and give their kids unscheduled time for exercise, rest, and yes, boredom. Don’t fill every minute up with screen time. Beyond that, we need to let kids struggle and fail when they are young, in a supportive and caring environment, to inoculate them against future stress. We need to reengage as communities – go back to church, or find the equivalent if you are not religious. Volunteer, get out of the house, find outlets for stress.

  • Morgan Torre

    I would first like to offer my condolences to Donna – I’ve been suicidal, and have had many friends commit sucide – There is hope, and she can catch up! I did it. I was able to work with my school and took community college classes in the summer and was able to graduate early. I know she can do it. I believe in her – from one person who fights against suicide thoughts daily let her know that we have to stick together and help each other get through the tough times.

    I’m listening but can’t call through the line from Michigan – it goes to a different radio station. But I’m a 21 year old at Michigan State University who has suffered mental problems associated with the stresses of life for teens today since I was young. I have been suicidal, I have had many other friend commit scuidie – turn to drugs (heroin especially) and none of the stress has gone away. I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder since age 11 and still am fighting everyday to get up in the morning and go to class. I see the same problems in my friends around me, a lot of people I know have been prescribed antidepressants and diagnosed with depression or an anxiety disorder. I can tell you right now if I had not been sent to a therapist by my third grade teacher who suggested I get screened for a learning disability (AD/HD) they would never have been able to eventually diagnose me with MDD as well. If I had not continued to see a therapist, and if the teachers in my public schools had not been on board with helping me get through school I would not be alive today.

  • mmichlin

    Maybe teens themselves report higher stress; however, the statistics from 1991 to 2009 show that their suicide rate is essentially flat and even decreased somewhat. Moreover, the rate of suicide of young people (10 to 24) is much lower (almost half)than other age groups.

    Also, suicide rate of adolescents ages 15 to 19 is almost half of that of young adults ages 20 to 24:

    So, what’s the substance of the discussion???

    • Scott Langston

      Are we defining relevant stress as that leading to suicide? Seems rather radical.

  • marygrav

    One of the reasons that today’s teen may be so stressed out is because when I was a teen we had adults running the US Congress and the President was the President. The Republicans were Conservatives, not Neoconservatives who care more about making points with the T-Party than the survival of the United States. Until Barack Obama, all the Presidents of the United States were White; therefore to be respected as Commander in Chief of the United States and dedicated to the proposition that the health of the nation came before the health of those who have no concept of what is in the Constitution.

    Eisenhower, Truman, FDR were not perfect but they were judged on their ability to lead, not on the color of their skin. All attacks on them were based on politics, not myths. I have heard proposals coming from the T-Party/GOP that are not even Constitutional, but they are accepted as gospel.

    These thing add up as we listen to propaganda presented as news. This stresses out parents, especially if they are working two or more minimum wage jobs, who want to enter the Middle Class to secure a future for their children. Before the Internet children could be shielded from how our Congress is no longer our Congress, but belongs to “special interests” and the Right-wing movement that sees its future in fascism, not in democracy.

    If teen are materialistic, is it because of the political agenda that teaches them they have no future unless we deprive them of a present.

    Of course this may only be minute. But like the sands on the shore, they gather.

  • Monica

    Additionally, the claim that the threat of violence is the same as the threat of failing an exam is misguided. On the micro level of the brain, maybe, but this is completely out of context. Kids who face the threat of family or community violence on a regular basis are /constantly/ in flight or fight mode. It isn’t something that comes and goes, like an exam. That affects the brain much differently, with more devastating effects. Moreover, violence perpetrated by caregivers affects the very attachment relationships that facilitate development across cognitive, emotional, and social development. Kids who have supportive caregivers and are not under the threat of violence have vital protective factors to fall back on when facing the stress of an exam. You absolutely cannot take these issues out of context.

    To those who called in or commented about “the good old days”– maybe the 50s-60s were a better, safer time for YOU, but for the majority of people (e.g., working class, people of color), it was not.

  • Regular_Listener

    So teens are stressed now more than ever? I wonder about that. Thinking back to my own teen years – they were hardly a stressless, carefree time, although it might seem that way when one recalls a happy memory or two. I would bet that has been the case all along. In my middle class town there was drug use, violence, theft, mental illness, and racial tension – and this is just the teenagers I am talking about here. I was struck by what specifically they are (supposedly) stressed about today – the future, money, mainstream success – hmm, all the same things their parents are worried about. Could it be that adults are passing their worries onto their offspring? And issues of sex, relationships, alcohol and drugs – these things are way behind, barely worth thinking over as the kids ponder what graduate programs to apply for? I doubt it. And I do agree with the listener who pointed out that the issues of poor and minority kids don’t seem to be included in this discussion.

    This does however seem to point to a middle class America that is feeling stressed and worried about the future.

Aug 29, 2014
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Photos surround the casket of Michael Brown before the start of his funeral at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014.  (AP)

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