Responsible Decision-Making

Family Resources on Pressure to Succeed

Project and Purpose

Many students are experiencing anxiety around succeeding now and in the future. In this lesson students will look at issues that may create pressure and anxiety and consider supports that may help.

Video Overview:

“I think there is more competition these days to go to the best college, to make the best SAT scores, and it’s like everybody is trying to be the best,” 14-year-old Connie says. Even at the tender ages of 12, 13 and 14, adolescents begin to worry about the future – “Where will I go to college?” “What kind of career will I choose?” “How much money will I make?” It’s a new kind of teenage angst.

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Pressure to Succeed

Thirteen-year-old Trey feels the pressure every day. “I set my standards very high and when I don’t achieve my goal, I feel very bad,” he says. Michael, 14, pushes himself, too. “You want to be better than everybody else. I know I do. I want to be at the top of the pile and if I’m not there, I feel like I gotta do a lot of things to get there.”The National Association of School Psychologists estimates that career-related anxieties among teens have increased about 20% in the past decade. Experts say striving for success is great, but they also warn that if it becomes an obsession, it can be unhealthy for kids. “They become anxious [and] jittery. They become worriers,” says Dr. John Lochridge, a psychiatrist. “They turn to drugs or alcohol as external ways to calm themselves down.“Experts say that parents need to help kids put success into perspective and teach them how to pace themselves. “[It’s important to] emphasize the moment as opposed to where we are going to be in five years, where we’re going to be in 10 years or what are we achieving,” says Dr. Alexandra Phipps, a psychologist. But more than anything, parents need to help their children recognize the importance of “just being a kid.” Says Connie: “Sometimes, I feel like I have so much stress on me. And I feel like at this age, I should be enjoying myself, but sometimes I don’t feel like I’m enjoying life as I should be.”

If this lesson was used in the classroom: Students considered issues surrounding an overly competitive culture and how this can mischaracterize the meaning of success. In class students discussed that a good work ethic is important, children should also keep life balanced with social and fun activities.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

The video for this module features several youths who discuss how pressure to do their best can sometimes be overwhelming. Experts also discuss the importance of keeping life balanced and enjoyable.

Conversation Starters and Practice at Home

The first item is for follow-up after viewing the lesson video and participating in class activities.

What problems did students in the video bring up? Why are these issues concerning?

List the things you have done in the last week. Do you think this is a good balance between school, work, social and recreational activities? Why or why not?

If there was disagreement about the level of balance, develop a plan to improve this. Include resources necessary to support the plan.

Do you think teens generally face too much stress? If so, what would improve the situation?

Schools to Home Resources on Pressure to Succeed

Discussion and Self-Reflection Questions

  • Do you worry about your future? What causes you stress and anxiety? What are the benefits of competition? What are its hazards?
  • What action might you take today to help manage your concerns about the future? Who can you turn to for assistance and support?
  • Some recommend being organized, planning activities and goals, and even exercise, meditation, and proper nutrition as strategies to manage stress. What might work for you?
  • One student in the video commented on the importance of “just being a kid.” What does this mean to you? Do you believe that is valid? Do you have the opportunity to “just be a kid?”
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