Are there too many pressures on young people these days?

Are you one of those people who say: ‘I would give anything to be young again’? But come to think of it, would you really do it? Perhaps knowing what you know now and going back in time would be an attractive option, but I guess a reasonable percentage of us would dread facing the many pressures of youth these days.

School teachers are noticing that even ‘jocks’, super fit and sporty kids, are experiencing a higher incidence of mental health related problems; eating problems, body dysmorphia, depression and suicidal tendencies are becoming more frequent.

– Peer pressure, whether real or perceived, is everywhere. and from an early age. Using the ‘right’ brands, having the latest technology, fitting in with the right look, can make a difference in whether or not you are accepted by others. Often it’s only as we get older that we aspire to be different, we enjoy looking quirky or eccentric, but often younger people don’t have the confidence or self-assurance not to worry about fitting in as well as possible.

– Parental pressure can be self-imposed. There may be guilt for working hard enough and doing well after seeing the struggles our parents went through, the sacrifices they made so that we could have the opportunities they missed. Some parents may have worked long hours or struggled alone as single parents so that their children would not have to live without them. Or there may be a ‘golden’ brother and the pressure to match his results is an unspoken reminder of what could be achieved.

– Or there are those parents who live vicariously through their children, pushing them to live the life they never had, nurturing their talents from a young age, dedicating themselves to ensuring that their children achieve the success they were denied. Finding the balance between encouraging your children to be active, motivated, to do something for themselves, to handle disappointments and failures versus forcing them to do something they don’t want to do can be a challenge. Even hobbies are often areas where there is added pressure, the need to excel at football, dancing rather than just having fun!

– Many young people are confused about what they want to do with their lives, what career would best follow them, and yet the decisions that will influence the rest of their lives must be made at a very young age. Which subjects to study, which to drop, which interests to pursue can all have significant implications in later years.

– Studying and passing exams take up a lot of time, thought and energy. for young people, which adds considerably to the many pressures they face. College is a focus for many and while college can be seen as a rite of passage, it is not the only or best option for everyone. Studying something you may not be sure about, may never use, while racking up large amounts of debt can add to the pressure you already experience.

taking a gap year considering your thoughts and dreams can be a viable use of some time and teach important life skills along the way. Another option may be to ease the pressure by going to university to learn a skill or trade or joining an apprenticeship scheme. Undertaking education in a more “practical” and less academic way may seem more relevant to everyday life. It can help identify your specific skill sets, those talents and areas you might develop in the future and is an effective way to introduce young people to a real job situation.

Initially, it may seem like a failure if you don’t get into college, but not going can be a blessing in disguise. Often when one door closes another opens. That new door may offer a path to a fulfilling career, starting your own business, down a path you’ve never considered before.

– When things don’t go according to plan it can be helpful to find someone to talk things over with. If you can’t or don’t want to talk to parents or family, find a mentor, teacher, or even a peer group where you feel comfortable sharing your fears, concerns, and emotions. Keep those channels of communication open and discuss your feelings openly and honestly. Listen, share and learn.

Talk things over with people who understand what it’s like to feel once unsuccessful, hopeless, lost. Recall the many thousands of successful people who did not attend college or even college, who were rejected countless times, and yet went on to become award-winning writers, film directors, entrepreneurs, and superstars.

– You are not defined by the results of your exam. Failure happens when you fall down and refuse to get up again. I guess when you were first learning to walk you fell several times, but those falls didn’t stop you from persevering, and now you can walk and even run. A successful life is about taking a few bumps and treating them as lessons along the way, a guide to trying a different direction, one that better suits you and where you want to go.

Have a reserve position in reserve. Establish a Plan B so that all your eggs are not in the same basket. When you have other options, no matter how unlikely they may seem, you’ll feel like you’ve regained some power, a feeling that you’re still in control. And it’s a relief, very liberating to feel a little bit in charge of your own life, not following a predetermined path. It can be scary and exhilarating at the same time! This way, any pressure is genuinely yours!

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