We were talking about teen stress at my book club meeting last week. We all met as parents working at a book fair when our children were in elementary school and have been meeting as friends and a book club for more than 13 years. We’ve shared and vented and celebrated each other’s highs and lows and talked about our children (school work, peer pressure, college application process….) far more than we ever talked about the books we read (we are that kind of book club). Anyway, back to last week…somehow we got to reminicing about the absurdity of some of the elementary school homework projects — like the board game book report in 5th grade; the newspaper book report in 4th grade (putting together a newspaper based on the book with a Letter to the Editor, Dear Abby, Abby’s answer, news article, advertisement, weather report — long before any of our children had even read a newspaper); and the stuffed animal book report in 3rd grade. All of these efforts required a lot of parental “input” because the concepts and directions were beyond our children, and once you require parental “input,” there is a whole new level of family stress and host of issues that I won’t go into, here. Bottom line — we all wished our children could have just read more books and could have forgone all the stress of those early homework projects.
As you can imagine, I was interested to receive an email from Claire Kelly and The Partnership for a Drug Free America on the subject of teen stress, which included the video clip reference to the 2010 video documentary, “Race To Nowhere.” I found the trailer clip and have included below
Stress is one of the more common reasons teens (and adults, for that matter) choose to drink or take drugs — it helps to self-medicate the stress. The alcohol and/or drugs target the dopamine pathways in the brain — our “feel good” neural networks. These neural networks are the ones that give us pleasure; that make us want to repeat the behavior to get the good feeling, again. For some this is such a powerful feeling, especially during the time of brain development from ages 12-25, that it can lead to long term problems with drugs and/or alcohol.
We (my book club) didn’t have any answers and weren’t sure how the pendulum would swing but agreed that something has to be done to reduce this pressure on our children to be “super stars” before they graduate from high school. Perhaps the “Race To Nowhere” can jump start the conversations that need to happen.