By Guest Blogger Dr. Juan Santos, CRC, LCMHC, of Santos Counseling

Teens experience stress just like kids and adults. They experience stress that hits them in all directions when it comes to the almighty SAT and preparing for college. The stress can come in the from:

  • Pressure from parents. The parental pressure can show up directly, such as the parents telling their teen that they need to get a specific score or they will not go to college and end up homeless under a bridge. The pressure can also show up indirectly. Such as the teen noticing that their parents went to top schools, and they need to follow in the same footsteps.
  • Pressure can show up at school. Your teen may be surrounded by peers who have scored higher than them. This, in turn, can cause them to feel an internal pressure of not feeling good enough or feeling like they are being left behind.
  • Your teen may struggle with internal pressure. This can come in the form of unhealthy expectations or a negative inner voice.

Three key areas can help teens manage stress from the SAT and college planning.

1. Engaging in exercise.

Focus on physical fitness is a must when it comes to managing stress. Exercise activities can range from jumping jacks to playing in a pick-up basketball game. The goal is to actively engage in fitness activities to receive the benefits directly impacting success and stress connected to the SAT and college preparation.

The benefits of exercise that impact stress and success include:

  • Lowering stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This is vital when it comes to the SAT and college planning. Teens will want their stress on check if the goal is to perform effectively.
  • Increasing production of endorphins which support with pain relief and improving mood.
  • Increase in stamina. This is key as teens will certainly feel a bit of tiredness during the long SAT marathon.
  • Improvement in self-confidence.

2. Creating SMART goals.

Support your teen by focusing on SMART goals.

  • S stands for specific.
  • M stands for measurable.
  • A stands for achievable.
  • R stands for relevant.
  • T stands for time-bound.

The purpose of SMART goals is to help your teen create goals for the SAT and college planning. SMART goals can help with developing healthy expectations and an overall approach to the area of focus.

3. Accepting help.

It’s vital for teens to begin to hold mastery the skill of leaning in to help. I often encourage the teen patients that I work with to draw a giant dot on a sheet of paper that represents them. I then ask them to draw small dots that represent all the people that have supported them to learn a lesson or overcome a difficulty in life.

For instance, a teen may draw four additional dots. One for a soccer coach who taught them the importance of teamwork, another for their parent who supported them with patience, another for a teacher who provided them with additional study habits, and the last a neighbor who supported them with taking risks such as when they started their own business of cutting grass in the neighborhood.

I strongly encourage teens to lean into structures of help. This can include:

  • A tutor can support them in improving their score on the SAT.
  • A tutor that can support learning specific study habits that fit the SAT.
  • A counselor can support developing a growth versus a fixed mindset.
  • A counselor that can support test preparation and confidence.

I hope that you found this helpful. As you continue to support your teen, ensure that you provide them with compassion.

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