The teenage years, as miraculous and wonderful as they are, can be pretty tough on the teenagers moving through them. As parents, teachers, doctors, and other caring adults, we are their stability through the transition from childhood to adulthood - and we may need to get a wee bit more serious about that responsibility!
My suggestion is that we "take back our teens" - their bodies, brains and souls need us! If I had to select one thing that our society could do to guarantee its future, this would be it. The idea that as our children turn twelve their peers become more important than their parents is just plain wrong. Teens need caring adults as role models and guides more than any other period in their lives (after infancy).
Why we are tolerating sleep-deprived, anxious, stressed, cheating and overscheduled teens is just beyond me. These situations lead to even more serious conditions including depression, self-mutilation, and substance abuse. We cannot explain this away by saying, it is just a stressful time in life because I do not believe any previous generation has experienced this level of stress.
I live in Silicon Valley and know that it seems like there is no other way to get high test scores and GPAs that will result in admission to a great college, but it cannot be worth the price to our children.
We as parents have to make sure that our teens have enough time to build the developmental assets that will help them reduce stress and become successful adults. This includes time to read each day, spend time with family members and friends, share meals, think about others, relax, exercise, eat well and get 8+ hours of sleep a night!
Let's do the math: a healthy teen can spend 8 hours a day at school, sleep 9 hours, work or do a sport, music, or community service activity for 2+ hours a day, share an hour at breakfast and dinner with the family, and still have 4 hours a day for spirituality, relaxation, reading, chores, friends, exercise, homework, and grooming. So, if this equation does not work for your teen, help him or her figure out why.
The teen or parent can record what the teen does each day for a couple of days and quickly figure out what is taking too much time. Having a discussion about the balance they find, or the balance that is missing, can be an important conversation to have. Bringing up goals and the skills it takes to find balance in life will help them identify things they can streamline and do more of to feel more balanced, and therefore relaxed and happy.
Remember - bodies, brains and souls! There is no reason we can't feed them healthy food and exercise with them, support their homework and goal setting activities, and share time with them so they feel unconditionally loved! What could be more important than our teens?