Members of just about every age group are liable to feel low every now and again. However, teens are particularly vulnerable to low self-esteem. Roughly 20 percent of the teenage population goes through depression. It's not hard to see why. Teenagers are surrounded by messages and media depictions that they can't live up to. They see pop idols and movie stars and feel inferior for not being able to match those standards.
Unhealthy comparisons can also be done amongst peers. Social media brings students in constant contact with their peers. They'll scroll through feeds and see all kinds of fun and rewarding things happening to others and think about how imperfect their life is. Even though people have a tendency to post the best parts of their lives to social media, it can create the illusion that their lives are perfect. Even if a teen is happy with their life, they can start to feel inferior just by letting the comparison happen.
Making it through a single week of school can be a Herculean task for some students. Academic pressure can get the best of even the sharpest students, as succeeding in school is about more than just being intelligent. Students have to keep track of multiple classes, studying for exams, taking standardized tests, and preparing for college.
There's also a pressure to hit certain standards. If a student wants to be accepted into a certain college, they can experience a great deal of stress trying to have the best application possible. The stress they're putting on themselves can end up putting their grades in jeopardy, ultimately leading to even more stress.
Problems at Home
There's more going on with students than you might realize. While you may only know them based on what they go through at school, there could be all kinds of things that they're going through in their home life. These could be affecting their ability to focus in school and complete their assignments.
Some of the domestic problems that students can experience include divorced parents, violence, sexual abuse, and drug abuse. As an educator, you should do your best to recognize signs of abuse. Don't overstep your boundaries but do report any signs of abuse to the proper authorities. You could potentially change a student's life for the better this way.
Mental health awareness has come a long in the last few years, but we still have a ways to go, particularly in regards to students. While things like anxiety and depression can certainly be rooted in trauma, there isn't always a reason for them. If a student is going through mental health troubles with no apparent cause, it can make them feel like they should be able to snap out of it.
When someone's lived with mental troubles for long enough, they can get good at hiding them. Schools need to focus on mental health awareness while also respecting confidentiality. Things like anonymous surveys regarding mental health can give you a good idea of what kinds of things students are going through. If your school hosts a health fair, make sure there's at least one exhibit regarding the importance of mental health.
Drug and alcohol use among teens is an ongoing problem with no clear solution. There are all kinds of reasons teens use these substances. It typically starts with wanting to fit in with their peers. When stresses start to pile up, they can use these items as a crutch to get through the day okay. Their grades and social life can start to go downhill, but the comfort of drugs and alcohol seem like they'll be enough to pacify them.
Drug addiction and alcoholism are health problems, not moral failings. A student who is coping with substance abuse wants more than anything to get better. We must learn to see them being as worthy of help as somebody dealing with a broken limb or cancer. Education on the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse is also essential. Teens need to understand that, if they want to be treated maturely, they need to make mature decisions.
Sex is a maze that teens have to try their hardest to navigate. As they deal with puberty and raging hormones, they can find themselves confused by all the choices they have to make. They're surrounded by all kinds of messages, often in contrast to one another. Receiving faulty or biased information can lead to serious consequences, from unwanted pregnancy to STDs.
In the past, conversations about sex and teens focused on them being sexually active. It's much broader now, with additional subjects to consider, such as sexual orientation, gender identity, and consent. Everyone has different thoughts and feelings regarding sex. Putting any sort of specific pressure on students to approach sex in one way will make those who don't think that feel like they're wrong for being how they are. Sexual education is a must, but it needs to be done properly. It should be as subjective as possible and contain information that lets students make the best possible decision for themselves. Students should also be educated on consent, particularly with how to respect boundaries and how to let someone know that they've crossed a line.
You might never be able to truly understand what it's like to be a student today. However, a generation gap shouldn't stop you from doing your best to listen and work to solve their needs. As educators, it's our duty to do more than just teach things that are gradable. We also need to teach students how to love themselves and be the best possible versions of themselves.