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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Kids are More Stressed than We Realize: 4 Steps to Take

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jun 11th 2012

bitten pencilAccording to a survey done by the American Psychological Association, children and teens are more stressed than their parents realize. There’s a trickledown effect to this of course, when parents are stressed, the kids feel that and take it in. They start to develop unhealthy styles of thinking like perfectionism and fears of failure. This stress turns into anxiety and begins to arrest them when they're taking tests and studying. While a little stress helps out with motivation, this mounting stress is an obstacle to the child's success and well-being. Let’s not forget that these kids grow up to become adults who are more stressed.

Clinical Psychologist Madeline Levine says, "Parents are worried that if their children don't get into Harvard, they're going to be standing with a tin cup on the corner somewhere."

While this may seem like a preposterous notion to many, the fear of this is very real in the family which causes enormous stress on the kids. In my own practice I've seen stress and anxiety on the rise in adolescents. I have also heard tutors telling me kids seem much more stressed now than they've seen in the past. Our media may also be to blame. When kids and adults get used to watching reality TV shows where people are showered in riches and fame, they often can't help but compare themselves to that and inevitably feel disappointed and like a failure because they don't have that material "success". Kids end up valuing the material world and feeling insecure with a false sense of what life should be like.

What can parents and adolescents do?


  • First, parents need to learn how to manage their own stress so they can model this for their adolescents and children. If you are a highly stressed or anxious parent I recommend looking into stress reduction practices. I often write about mindfulness as a wonderful practice to support people with every day stress. 

  • Second, while the TV and internet can be great babysitters, try turning off the television at least once a week and limit your kid's interaction on the internet. Practice mindful listening with them. There is a common co, not just hearing what they are saying, but listening.

  • Third, promote altruistic acts in your children and have them get the feel for what it is like to give back to society. This helps them realize that it is not all about them, which inevitably relieves pressure and gives them invaluable tools that will support their well-being.  

  • Fourth, try to stop obsessing over your kid's grades and performance and really try and help them have an interest in learning for its own sake. This will not only help your own stress, but help them retain information better, get in the flow of learning, and do it all with less pressure.


As always, please share your thoughts or questions below, your questions and comments support a living wisdom that can benefit us all.


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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