We’ve reached the crazy point. Teachers and students feel it acutely. Family members of teens feel it, too, though they may not know just what they’re feeling. Teens are sulkier, angrier, and more sleep deprived than they’ve been all school year.
The end of school is coming.
In elementary school it’s the most wonderful time of the year. The time of school plays, assemblies, field trips, and end-of-year field days and parties.
In high school, the end is nigh and none of it’s fun.
First, there are the grades. Grades are dependent on the end of term tests, state testing, and end of year projects. All of my kids seem to have roughly two thousand of these tasks due in the coming weeks. They are stressful and feel enormous. Kids learn fast how to BS to make the word count requirements, to read their teachers’ minds when the directions are painfully confusing, and to not get suspended for losing their patience with students who are supposed to contribute to their group projects.
Next, there are the outside of school activities which ramp up. Prom, which practically requires a bank loan and a full time event planner for some teens is stressful and a huge production. Then, there are after school rehearsals, practices, and other extra “fun” things like sports banquets and never ending awards ceremonies.
All of these activities and requirements, like seemingly all teen “milestones,” come with unreachable expectations for everyone. Teachers expect that their students will wow them with amazing research, presentations, performances, and writing. Parents expect that their children will take their opportunities to shine and make everyone proud. Teens expect to experience John Hughes’ film level “life changing moments” full of romance, best friends, bullies realizing their errors, and long held grudges – dropped.
We know what happens when the reality meets the expectation. There are all-nighters to finish projects and to study for tests. There are scrambles to retrieve forgotten concert attire to the performances. The sleep deprivation leads to everyone having greatly diminished coping skills and meltdowns. Nothing seems to go right. Everyone ends up stressed.
Except if they’re lucky, teens have families and friends who are ready to help them see the long game and celebrate the small momentary victories with ice cream sundaes for dinner or a movie night. They get to dance with their friends and sing on stage. Their projects and tests may not set any new grading records, but they get finished. The school year ends, and we get to start again after the summer. Hopefully those without support at home will find a way. Hopefully they’ll find support somewhere or find the strength to push themselves through.
So, I’m reminding you as much as I am reminding myself. Nothing that happens in the next six weeks will determine the rest of a teenagers life. Give yourself and everyone else a break.
You’re doing fine, and summer is coming…