Walk the halls of any high school, and the classic stereotypes will come alive before your eyes. The Preps, jocks, nerds, bad kids etc. Most people are able to pick them out and know behavioral patterns. Perhaps the most overlooked teens are actually the ones in the spotlight. This teen is on the honor roll, takes AP classes, plays a sport and has a hand in school organizations. They may even hold a job outside of school. This kid does not appear to have any overt issues. This is the all-American teenager, living it up in high school before getting the amazing scholarship to the perfect college. But what is the price tag which accompanies that amazing scholarship? What will that perfect college acceptance letter really cost them?
A well-known fact is that a balance of good nutrition, sleep and exercise are the recipe for a healthy lifestyle. The healthy teenager has a similar recipe, but one thing may be missing: a social life. This may appear to happen with all those extracurricular activities, but, if they are always planning an event, running a club meeting or having to stay on some task then that teen is not socializing – they are working. The overachieving teen will be more responsible than most children and less likely to act out because of all the time they spend doing what they are supposed to be doing. However, this does not mean this teen is not in trouble.
This teen is not experiencing a healthy high school career. They spend Friday night studying instead of nurturing friendships that teach them important relational skills. They are heading another club meeting instead of allowing a peer to lead once in awhile. Not only is this teen missing out on the social aspects of a healthy high school lifestyle, they could also be negatively affecting their physical health.
All of that running around overachieving takes a lot of energy. Energy that must come from eating and sleeping well. True, this teen may get three square meals a day from their parents, but all those AP classes, club agendas and that part time job quickly eat into a teen’s spare time. Frequently, the “extras” even eat into time that could be spent sleeping. There is also the possibility that the work load of this teen causes them an abnormal amount of stress. Anxiety can lead to health problems such as eating disorders, tension headaches and even serious complications like ulcers.
The bottom line is that every teenager needs to be able to act like a teenager within reasonable limits. This overachieving, overstressed teen may not be punching the small kids in the hallway, or snorting cocaine behind the school bus, but they still need help and support from their parents to make healthy decisions. Talk to your teen; figure out if they are truly happy with that busy schedule. Find out if they are doing everything possible because they think they have to for approval. If they are, help them balance out their life so that they can breathe again. Most importantly, let them know that you are proud of them no matter what grades they get, or how many clubs they are president of, because this overachieving teen could just be searching for your approval.