There are a number of ways to glean that youth are experiencing stress on many levels. Recent research data tells a grim tale:
- 30% of high school teens reported feeling depressed or overwhelmed.
- 83% cite school as the source of stress.
- 40% of teens reported feeling irritable or angry.
- 31% are depressed or overwhelmed due to day-to-day life stressors.
- 31% reported feeling overwhelmed due to stress.
- 36% reported feeling fatigued or tired.
- 25% report skipping meals due to stress.
Many parents witness their teens checking out before the school year is over. This trend can continue to transpire each year with serious consequences once the child reaches high school years. A well-observed phenomenon of teen burnout reported by teachers in classrooms across the nation warrants our serious and immediate attention.
Recently, the COVID-19 Pandemic has added to the rising stress/burnout levels among American teens, as reported by American Psychological Association. “… Gen Z teens (ages 13-17) and Gen Z adults (ages 18-23) are facing unprecedented uncertainty, are experiencing elevated stress, and are already reporting symptoms of depression.”2
To understand the plight of our teens, it’s important to ask questions and explore solutions to help our young adults have a decent opportunity to spend content and accomplished lives.
Why does the problem exist?
Here are three leading burnout factors in teens.
Cultural and Societal Factors: Positive life skill hacks learned early on in life make a huge difference in a child’s life when they encounter issues related to the sense of stability, both now and in the past. These include economic status, ethnic and racial background, cultural identity, language, religion, norms and values, and gender expectations. Throw in bullying and social media influences, and the situation gets worse fast.
Emotional Influences: The upbringing environment plays a big role in how teens can handle their stress along with the conditions present at the time of critical growth period. The most influential of these conditions in raising stress levels are family structure, family history, recent change or loss in the family, attitude, physical/emotional abuse, disposition, peer status, and self-esteem.
Academic Performance: Last but not least, 83% of American teens cite school as a source of stress. For some, this is due to disengagement from learning due to low levels of academic skills such as reading and writing skills, learning gaps in mathematics, attentional focus, social status in school, and few past successes. For others, it is getting into a good college or what to do after high school.
What can we do about it?
Help them by helping ourselves. Parents can start by creating an open, communicative, and respectful environment with a solution-based focus on life problems and events.
Instilling this attitude does not stop the problems from appearing but it sure helps navigate through them with skill and allows our teens to have the power over their actions and mindset. Parents model to their teens when they’re able to effectively manage their own stress and burnout by taking care of their emotional and health needs and presenting positive attitudes through difficult times. Faith is a powerful tool that parents can use to demonstrate to their teens how to engage the world with patience, move on from problems, focus on the essentials, learn about emotional intelligence from the life of our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and trust in God.
Schools have a vested interest and responsibility to help raise responsible and good citizens for their communities.
As Abraham Maslow proposed in his hierarchy of human needs, basic wants must be met before students can turn their attention to learning. After securing food, water, shelter, and safety from harm, people seek as their next most important needs affection, belonging, and esteem. Before a school can teach, it must give the students a sense of belonging. Then preparing the student for success in the classroom by assuring their readiness for the learning content without stigma and shame. Students must also be empowered to take charge of their learning and not just remain as outsiders in their learning plan, thus making learning a safe venture for our teens.
Leaders of communities should step up and help educate as well as create common sense legal legislations and funding sources to mediate some of these factors contributing to such high burnout rates and making it harder for our teens to navigate their daily lives.
Parents must realize that it is not the same world our children are facing as when we were growing up. This is the first step towards finding solutions. In the age of social media influencers, pandemics, school shootings, and widespread identity crises of all types, it has never been so crucial to unite the communities behind faith and solidarity to save our future generations. Our children are having a hard time finding their place in this world, which we as children were able to negotiate on the playground, in classrooms, and within families when things were simpler, and the world wasn’t this connected. 24-hour news cycle and unending TickTok, IG, Snap Chat feeds are putting our teens at risk of burnout before they have even stepped out in the real world.
Programs and opportunities that engage our teens in their communities through volunteering or internship need to be much more widespread and less restrictive for only some teens. Community dialogue on issues of morality is an essential step to finding solutions and bringing awareness to this consequential issue of teen burnout. Helping establish a structure to their lives with moral code, goals for life, and cause to devote their time to are some things a community can do help our teens stave off teen depression and these burnout crises.
So, what are we going to do about it? The best we can. Let us start now with the utmost sense of urgency in our homes, classrooms, and town halls.
Tayaabah Qazi has a master’s degree in Educational Leadership, an AdminI/II Certification from the State of Maryland Education Department, and a Secondary Teaching Certification in Chemistry as well as a CPP certificate. She has served in the education field as a teacher and an administrator of schools. Recently, she served at Community College of Baltimore County as a Coordinator of Adult Basic Education program. Currently, Tayaabah is the Program Manager at the Office of Workforce Development at Maryland Department of Labor. She has been a long-time resident of Maryland for 17 years, with her family, but hails from Southern California. She is also a staunch believer of the 4 Cs: Compassion. Commitment. Conversation. Cultivation.