Navigating Anxiety in Teens

By Kari Ramos, Director of School Counseling

“Psychology Today” recently published the following article written by Amy Morin titled, “10 Reasons American Teenagers Are More Anxious Than Ever”. I wanted to share this article as I found it to be clearly written, extremely insightful, and right on target.

Morin’s article is written in response to the “New York Times” article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis that was published last month called, “Why Are More American Teens Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”  Both authors refer to the emerging data in support of what we counselors and educators have been experiencing for years now – the rise in mental health challenges among the teenage population.

The articles both identify what we all know is true about the pressure that is placed on children.

Teenagers are feeling both external and internal pressure to perform and to juggle more and more activities. Some find this pressure crippling and essentially freeze, not able to do any of the tasks that are required of them. Others become obsessed with the process of taking on more and more, almost addicted to the positive feedback that they receive for a job well done. Many end up caught in between the two extremes; bouncing back and forth, lacking the skills to find a healthy balance for themselves. These articles are clear indicators to us as educators and as parents that we have reached a critical point in which we must find ways to make meaningful changes to improve our children’s outcomes.

Follows are three tips to help parents support their students:

  • If you listen, they will talk. Active listening is not easy for parents because we are often in a rush, distracted, or we jump to conclusions as to where the conversation is headed. Active listening requires time, attentiveness, and patience. It requires us to allow our children to express things that we may not agree with or want to hear. It is human nature to try to fix their concerns, or to dismiss them entirely because they are unrealistic. When you are actively listening, resist the urge to give your opinion or to make judgements about what you are hearing. Focus on the feeling behind what they are telling you. For example, a validating statement might be “…I can only imagine how frustrated that made you feel.” When children feel understood, there is an immediate improvement in their outlook. This holds true for adults as well.
  • Acknowledge your child’s struggles, pressures, and fears. Resist the urge to judge or to dismiss their feelings. Accept that while you may not understand or agree with them, they are very real for your child. Remember that it is their experience, not yours. Doing so makes it is easier to accept their perspective. Always seek to understand.
  • Look for opportunities to model the behaviors that you want to see in your child and teach them along the way. The current population of teenagers has not had to endure boredom, emotional discomfort, or pain in the same ways that the generations before them have had to, thus they are skill-deficient. Now is the perfect time to model healthy coping skills for your child. As you are doing so, talk to them about what you are doing and why. They may not employ the same skills that work for you, but through this exchange of knowledge and wisdom, you are showing your child that a) life is not easy; even for adults, b) you have the power to control your emotional response to life’s twists and turns, and most importantly c) resiliency is a skill that you value and are able to teach.


Preparing Our Hearts for Advent

By Rev. Amy P. Turner, Head Chaplain

Advent begins this year on Sunday, Dec. 3. Advent is the church season that ends with Jesus’ joyous arrival on Christmas.

It is about preparing – preparing yourself for the arrival of Jesus. Whenever we prepare for the arrival of a guest, there is work we do around the house in order to make their room ready for them. If you do not have a designated guest room, then you will need to clean out the room, clean up any clutter, and move things around. You vacuum, dust, and clean the bathroom. You get clean sheets out to make the bed, and set out clean towels in the bathroom. Sometimes we have to run to the grocery store to get either extra food or special food for meals. The work of preparing for a guest is not necessarily a quick process, not something that can be done in a few minutes, but it takes a bit of time and some thoughtfulness, making sure to plan and accommodate for your guests’ needs and preferences.

Preparing for Advent is a similar process. Each year we walk through the four weeks of Advent knowing the baby Jesus will soon be coming, but we cannot welcome him into our hearts and homes if we have not taken the time to prepare a room for him. We have four weeks to intentionally clean up our hearts and lives, to be reminded of the importance of the task. It cannot happen overnight. The birth of Jesus is a holy mystery that requires time spent over four weeks to prepare and begin to enter fully into the joy and excitement of what is coming.

Advent gives us four weeks of intentional time to prepare ourselves, our hearts, our minds, our souls, and our bodies for Jesus’ arrival – to prepare ourselves for the arrival of the best guest we can have visit us – Jesus. To take time to clean out the clutter in the rooms of our lives, lay out clean sheets for him to spend time in our hearts and minds, and invite him to stop, sit down, catch up on everything happening in our lives – the sadnesses that weigh down our souls and hearts, and the joys that lighten our moods and bring happiness to our lives.

I invite each of you to spend time this Advent preparing for Jesus’ arrival. Below are some suggestions:

  1. #AdventWord#AdventWord is the world’s first crowd-sourced global Advent Calendar that asks Christians to pray over a word and meditation and respond with an image on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.
  1. “Advent in full color” bookletBooklet with weekly readings, mediations, prayers, and practices for individuals and families for each of the four weeks of Advent including designs to color on each page. Booklets can be picked up at Upper School office.
  1. Advent Paper ChainsCreate paper chains using the digital downloads that count down to Christmas. Each day the family removes a piece of the chain and use the scripture for family devotions and the theme as a focus for prayer. There are two versions: Advent Chains and Names of Jesus Chain.

Student’s Trip to China Sparks Gratitude for Education

By Naomi Aguilar, HT Class of 2019

I never thought that one evening of randomly checking my email would start a journey that would change my life. I heard about the NSLI-Y (National Security Language Initiative for Youth) program through alumnus Evan Killion, who traveled to Russia through the same program. NSLI-Y gives merit-based scholarships to high school students for either one academic summer or one academic year to study in foreign countries and learn languages that the government deems critical for Americans to learn. They currently offer eight languages including Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Bahasa (Indonesian), Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Russian and Turkish.

I have been learning Mandarin in school since the fifth grade and have always had an immense passion for Asian and Chinese culture. Since elementary school, dreams of exploring Asia have been my go-to fantasy. The only way I could experience China was by watching Chinese movies and soap operas. My passion for Chinese culture directly led me to discover other Asian cultures, and my interest in foreign policy later developed. When I caught wind of a free trip to China with other kids who are just as enthusiastic, I instantly applied.

I left on June 24 to Nanjing, China and stayed there for six weeks. Already having been informed of Chinese culture and what to expect from my own research, I did not experience much culture shock. I was placed into the intermediate class at the university at which were studying, and I lived with a six-member host family during my time. I was surprised at the amount of freedom we had throughout the entire trip. After our classes (that ran from 8 a.m. to noon) and our cultural excursions, we could hang out with friends wherever we wanted. This program helped me develop independence and allowed me to develop a deep sense of gratitude for what I had back home here in America. China is not a third-world country, but it is still not considered a developed country. One of the experiences I had that will stay with me forever was when I visited a palace with my host dad, grandfather and little brother, I could not read one character on a plaque at the museum. I asked my grandfather what the character meant, and he told me he could not read. I had never meet someone who could not read, and for some reason I felt so shocked hearing his words. He later described to me that his family was too poor to get education as farmers in rural China. From that moment on I remembered how privileged and thankful I am to be living in the United States and having an education.

Going to China forced me to deal with my own anxieties related to traveling and having my own responsibilities as a student. This trip made me realize my passion for learning about the everyday man and the small things that make everyone unique. In terms of careers to pursue, my China experience has encouraged me to think about jobs that let me deal with the everyday man that exists in every nation. This trip was my first time going to a foreign country; before this, the farthest had traveled was to San Francisco. Going to China made me confront my ignorance and romanticism about the outside world, as previously I’ve only watched the news and made judgments on those statistics. Now I know that there are always two sides to the story, and an equal amount of importance should be placed on both sides.


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