Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Anxious Boys?

Parents aren't the only ones stressing out these days. The kids are stressed too.

New research from the American Psychological Association (APA) reveals that stress is the number one health concern for American high schoolers. Stress!

Grown-ups drowning under the weight of a recession find it all too easy to dismiss the idea of stressed out kids. "Please," they say, "what do kids have to be stressed about? All they have to worry about is themselves!"

Yes, but...kids worry about the recession too. Kids worry about money and jobs and tests and girls and terrorrism and whether or not their parents will stay together. They worry about their pets and college and the weather. They even worry about us.

Today's kids are much more stressed than we'd like to believe. Thirty-one percent of the parents who particpated in the APA study said their children had little to no stress; only 9% of the kids agreed. Half of the teens said they're more worried this year, while less than 1/3 of the parents thought their kids were experiencing additional stress.

Boys are not immune. In fact, David Thomas, co-author of Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, says he's seeing more stressed out boys in his therapy practice than ever before. "In the last decade," Thomas says, "I have seen more cases of anxiety than I have at any other time."

Our hyper-paced lifestyles may be partly to blame. "I think boys are anxious when they don’t have the kind of space they need, when there are so many demands on them throughout the academic day and then they go straight from school to violin lessons, straight from violin lessons to sports and straight from sports to something else," Thomas says. "Boys need time and space to release."

Thomas says that what looks like ADHD may actually be anxiety in disguise. "When a young man feels anxious, he’s distracted. He’s spending so much of his emotional energy trying to maintain balance that he's like a pressure cooker, and at different points he might explode or be really irrational, impulsive or distracted," Thomas says.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about signs of stress -- and what you can do about them.

What do you think? Are your sons stressed out? What's bothering them?

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