Anxiety Parenting Recovery Self-Care Stress

Is Your Teen Stressed About Graduation?

It’s time for Graduation!maine-3

During graduation time, it’s not uncommon for many teens to fall under great pressure from parents and teachers to exceed in academia or to get accepted into the ideal university. Stress tends to be high at the end of the year, no matter how you spin it. Often times, stress is somaticized (converted into physical symptoms) and it shows up in the form of : stomach aches, headaches, difficulty sleeping, eating more or eating less, and even mood swings.


Unfortunately, some kids turn to drugs and alcohol to attempt to quell the anxiety and physical manifestations of their stress, while others may sink into depression. Under stress, our nervous systems go on the fritz, thrusting the body toward a fight/flight/freeze response. If there is no healthy outlet to discharge that stress, it manifests physically.


At the end of the year, when graduation looms, there’s a very real potential for an increase alcohol and drug use, anxiety, and depression. We know that adolescent substance abuse tends to rise in the summer months of June and July. According to a report recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “approximately 11,000 adolescents use alcohol for the first time, 5,000 try their first cigarette, and 4,500 begin using marijuana” during the months of June and July. But facts aside, what can we, as parents, educators, and mental-health professionals do about it? Can you commit to this:

  • Create safe, open spaces for our kids to talk to us.
  • Create a  safe, open environment to facilitate healthy dialogue.
  • Be present for your kids, emotionally and physically.
  • Take care of your own needs and make sure your history is not spilling onto your kids’ present.

For teens already in recovery, managing that end-of-year stress around graduation is crucial:

  • Use your resources and ask for help from parents, teachers, your sponsor, mentor, or another safe adult.
  • Create prioritized lists, checking things off as you go.
  • Create a schedule.
  • Make time for self-care. Healthy physical activity is great for getting the endorphins going, a bubble bath is self-soothing, yoga or meditation will help you get grounded and settle in.
  • Take breaks. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take short 10-minute breaks every half hour and stretch, get up, walk around. You’ll notice an increase in your productivity.
  • Hang a picture of something or someone that inspires you near your workspace.

Try and remember that graduation is something to celebrate. It’s a wonderful accomplishment and something you’ve been working toward since childhood. All of the scraped knees, tears, trophies, reports, dissections and memorization got you to this place. Celebrate it healthfully!


Positive Tips for a Safe and Sober Graduation

Graduation is a few weeks away and that means there will be tons of parties and cause for

(Photo credit: uonottingham)

celebration.  Sometimes, grad night acts as a bridge to experimental drinking and drug use, or it can be uses as justification for intoxication. Graduation is a milestone and often symbolizes growing up and moving into adulthood. At times, adulthood is perceived as freedom from childhood where there are no parents breathing down their necks, no teachers calling home when they don’t pull their weight in class, and no one to report to. How many time have we heard,”Gah. I can’t wait to be an adult.” If they only knew, right!?


Graduation time is a great opportunity to brainstorm with your teen about the various positive options available to them if they find themselves in a compromising situation. Likewise, graduation time calls for active parenting where transparency coupled with healthy boundaries and compassion are key.


Check out the following grad-night sobriety tips. If you’re in any kind of recovery, these will be helpful:

  • Have a sober posse with you – a group of friends that you can rely on and who are on the same or similar path as you.
  • Create an exit plan: know what you will do if something goes awry or if you find yourself in a tough situation.
  • Call your sponsor before and after an event.
  • Movie night.
  • Host a sober house party – there’s nothing like good music, laughter, and silliness.
  • Create a scavenger hunt where people have to work in teams. You could do it in your local city with a start and end place.
  • Use the buddy system – don’t go it alone.
  • Ask your school to host fun, alcohol-free parties after graduation.
  • Suggest that parents and teachers run a hotline on prom night. If students have trouble getting to or from the dance or are riding with someone who’s been drinking, they can call for a safe ride with no questions asked.


More than anything: congratulations. Congratulations on completing high school, or college. Congratulations on showing up for yourself and your education. Congratulations on being the leaders of your generation and champions of a better future. May you go on to do great things, safe, sober and alive with joy.