Parents long to see their children succeed academically. However, too much pressure on your teen can backfire and cause ongoing problems for your child and possibly even lead to depression. The excessive pressure might make him or her feel threatened, resulting in lower grades instead of in improved grades. This can lead to a vicious cycle of anxiety, self-blame and struggling in school, causing more worry so that the problem starts all over again. They might feel as if they are dumb, leading to more stress.
A frank discussion about their fears can open the lines of communication so that they relax, possibly improving their grades.
Negative Coping Mechanisms
Pressure to perform might cause your child to resort to one or more of the following negative coping mechanisms when it comes to school.
- Inappropriate behavior – Your child might make poor choices when it comes to school if they feel driven to succeed. These might include cheating on tests or even using alcohol or drugs in order to cope with the underlying stress.
- Giving up – Your child might simply quit trying and just give up because he or she cannot achieve the goals that you have set for them.
- Become a perfectionist – A perfectionist focuses on doing a job perfectly and refuses to accept anything less than the highest standard. For example, a perfectionist will not even accept 95 percent on a test but insists on 100 percent each and every time. This unrealistic standard will only lead to frustration since no one can be perfect all of the time.
- Negative self-talk – Negative self-talk turns into a destructive pattern, sending your child on a downward spiral. This can lead to teen depression, setting the young person on a destructive course for life.
Academic Pressure and Teen Depression
Counselors report academic stress as a common issue among students. Students exhibit the listed behaviors, such as perfectionism, negative self-talk, feeling like a failure and giving up. This continued emotional negativity can lead to physical and emotional consequences. Since everyone makes mistakes, this unattainable standard leads to poor emotional health. When students learn how to cope with mistakes, they can begin healthy patterns that will improve their coping mechanisms, enabling them to handle problems with more resilience and competence. They can learn to face them head on so that they do not affect their self-worth.
Academic pressure and the accompanying depression can result in loneliness, again causing even more of a vicious cycle. Your child might be the first one to lend others a helping hand, but when he or she needs help, they might hesitate to ask others. They feel intimidated when they compare themselves with their friends. Instead, they need to understand that being vulnerable helps others better relate to them.
Watch closely for possible signs that your teen might be depressed, such as:
- Excessive change in eating or sleeping habits
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Overwhelming sadness or hopelessness
- On edge or angry, lashing out in rage
- Talking about ending it all, a focus on death or suicide
The Science Behind Depression and Perfectionism
When a person is under a great deal of stress, the body releases the hormone Cortisol. According to Psychology Today, this stress hormone elevates the risk of overall mental illness and depression specifically. Even more alarming, increased cortisol levels can reduce life expectancy.
Parents Can Combat Academic Pressure To Help Their Teen Succeed
Instead of pressuring your child, first, reassure him or her of your unconditional commitment, no matter what kind of grades they receive. As a parent, you want to fight academic pressure and boost your student’s morale. A positive attitude will do wonders to help your child succeed. Next, encourage him or her to succeed. For example, you can offer help with schoolwork, meet with teachers to brainstorm ideas and look into tutors or after-school assistance. In some cases, a biological problem, such as a chemical imbalance, might be the root of his or her struggles.
Consider taking your child for a physical to rule out health problems that might have a simple solution. In addition, talk openly about why school success is important and how it will affect their future. Even if he or she decides not to attend college, perseverance and a positive attitude will take him or her far in their career.
Parents can help their child by giving them perspective as they look toward their ultimate goals in life. They need to remember to do their best, enjoying the journey. Focusing on the end result will only frustrate them over the long haul. They will start to look toward their next achievement and the next and the next, forgetting to enjoy and celebrate the pleasures of life along the way.
Check with your son or daughter and ask if you are placing too much pressure on him or her. Explain the difference between perfection and excellence. The first one is not attainable while the second one is. Look at the definition of happiness and what that truly means to your child.
Remind your student that when one opportunity closes, another one will open up. What can look like a loss might really turn into a gain. While it’s healthy to grieve a loss, teach your child that he or she shouldn’t camp out there. Instead, take the time to process what happened and move on to a new beginning.
About The Author: Cindy Price is a Northern Utah wife, mom, and writer. She has experience writing educational content in the many areas of parenting, with an emphasis on teen-related issues, from which she applies and expounds on her personal experience raising three teenagers.