With so much competition to get into college, students are busier than ever. But how busy is too busy? The answer, according to Staples High School Outreach Counselor Chris Lemone, varies.
"There are many kids who are able to perform relatively stress free with full schedules and numerous responsibilities," such as sports or extracurricular activities, Lemone said. Other students, however, become overwhelmed by their busy schedules, he said. And when they do, the stress can affect them any number of ways.
"The students who struggle generally get little sleep, are anxious and project a great deal about things going wrong," said Lemone, who's also the faculty adviser of the Staples Teen Awareness Group. "Some students become depressed, and in extreme cases, can become avoidant with all aspects of their lives, unable to find another ounce of energy to venture ahead academically and with other responsibilities."
He also said it's not uncommon for an overstressed student to turn to drugs, alcohol or self-injury. But who or what is to blame for the academic stress some students face?
Lemone said it's unrealistic to place blame with one group or another. Rather, the problem has multiple sources, he said. Jennifer Kass, president of the board of directors at A Child's Place, a preschool in Westport, agreed. Her group recently screened the documentary "Race to Nowhere," which highlights the effects of academic overload on some students. "Everyone plays a part in this," said Kass, a mother of three. "It's not just parents, or educators, or students."
In terms of ways schools can help students, Lemone said he likes the idea of incorporating a test schedule for teachers to follow, so a student would never have more than two tests to take on any given day.
As a mother, Kass stressed the important role parents play in their children's lives. "As parents, we obviously have to guide [our children]. But you want them to be happy and healthy. Everything should be done in moderation."
Similarly, Lemone said parents should "foster and promote a healthy balance" in their children's lives. Perhaps more important, though, he said students who are feeling overwhelmed should advocate for themselves. "Let someone know when something is wrong, because if you don't the world will think everything is fine."
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