Picture a high school gym where dozens of students lay on foam mats taking deep relaxing breaths to the slow cadence of their teacher’s voice. The class is Yoga 101 and it is the hot subject being taught from preschool to high school. And why so? Well, it seems educators are very concerned about their students’ stress levels and how it is affecting their emotional health as well as their ability to concentrate. They say students today are the most achievement-oriented batch they’ve had: always striving to be perfect, internalizing everything, and not knowing how to reduce stress loads. Some even nickname them, “Generation Stress” and the term seems to fit. You might call it “An Awakening of Conscience,” but educators coast to coast are also very serious about finding ways to help their students learn coping strategies and teaching yoga is on their list.
Don’t go fretting about those tax dollars. Most schools offer stress-management classes such as yoga as options to physical education requirements. These days P.E. choices vary from weight training, archery, flag football, aerobics, dance, to basketball, softball and soccer. So why not yoga? Professed benefits include improving balance, flexibility, and focus as well as learning how to relax and reduce stress though proof still remains to be seen. A just released analysis reviewed 813 studies found only thin evidence proving yoga’s therapeutic values, but that’s really not the point.
The real question is why are schools taking on the responsibility of teaching stress-reducers? Isn’t that the parents’ job? Educators heartily concur, but are also quick to add a sad truth: Too many parents fail to recognize how just overwhelmed their children are. And that is inconsolable considering how troubling research is about our children’s mental health—and a big cause is stress—what teachers are trying to
A UCLA study revealed that teen well-being is the lowest in 26 years.
Teen suicide quadrupled in last forty years—the same period showed a significant increase in serious emotional mental health illnesses amongst our youth including anxiety disorders, behavioral disorders, depression, self-mutilation and substance abuse.. The proportion of young people ages 15 to 19 who have taken their own lives jumped 114 percent in one year. Almost 40 percent of college students say during the past school year they felt “so depressed it was difficult to function. Of course, not all kid problems are due solely to stress, but it certainly is a big factor.
Even our kids say they’re stressed. A recent AP/MTV survey found 85 percent of teens say they feel stressed; 35 percent feel it in high dosages on a daily level. Girls (45 percent) seem to be even more stressed-out than the boys (33 percent). A Kids in Crisis Survey found that 85 percent of our kids worry about grades; 83 percent feel overwhelmed by homework. And stress is showing up in kids as young as three years of age. Enough!
I applaud educators for their efforts, but I also think it high time for parents to wake up and smell the roses. All is not well with our children’s emotional health and well-being. They are smart, but they are troubled and sad. The research confirms it, and the stats get more troubling each year.
So please: watch your children a bit closer. Take their concerns seriously. Look closer at their schedules to ensure “downtime” is included. Do what you can to reduce some of that load, but also make a promise to teach your children strategies so they know how to cope with stress in a healthy way. I’m convinced it’s one of the most important skills our kids’ need to survive and thrive in today’s pressure cooker world. I’m also willing to bet a lot of teachers will applaud your efforts when you do, and your kids will thank you as well.
I’ll post specific signs of stress to look for in your kids in the next blog.