Back in Session

As we (reluctantly) kiss summer days of sleeping in and freedom goodbye and gear up for the new season, let’s preserve the happiness gleaned from a few months of relaxation from the daily grind. While my type-A friends may disagree, keeping perspective and balance this school year is the goal I’m setting for my family, as the overwhelm of competing demands—schoolwork, homework, extracurricular and social—can quickly consume our time, energy and joy.

As our featured stress expert, Jeffrey Gero, notes in “Mastering Teenage Stress,” more than half of 8- to 17-year-olds experience stress and anxiety about school. Prolonged stress can cause depression, lack of motivation and downright unhappy kids—just look at the staggering number of teen suicides! As I often remind my own children, worrying too much about school, or anything else, is unproductive. Instead, keep the big picture in mind and know that whatever challenges we’re facing will pass—even junior year of high school!

As a society, we place such an emphasis on achieving and getting ahead that we often forget to enjoy life. In high school, especially, students are pushed to get good grades, take AP and IB classes, load up on extracurriculars and do whatever it takes to excel academically. Why? Because they’re told attending a prestigious college leads to success in the form of a lucrative career. While obtaining a good job is important, let’s be honest with our kids: regardless of what college does or does not accept them, they can still succeed and find a career they love—and once they have a degree, who cares where it came from?

Plenty of opportunities exist to explore career options, aside from attending an elite (and expensive) institution. Whether in the workforce, community college or a four-year public or private college, young adults can discover their interests, skills and passions and decide which direction to take them. Be sure to read about Segue Career Mentors (p. 34), an organization that educates and inspires youth about potential career paths by bringing guest speakers from all walks of life into the classroom to share their vocations with students.

Thankfully, educators are wising up and offering alternatives to traditional high-stress school curriculums. In Conejo Valley, many educational options exist for students who thrive in academic environments that emphasize cooperation over competition and allow for hybrid independent and in-class learning (“Educational Alternatives,” p. 38).

So, as we dive into the pool, er, school year and new season, let’s remember to keep calm and do the best we can, while also allowing time to relax and have fun—balance is the key, so we don’t fall victim to stress and anxiety.

Wishing you all a happy and productive new season!