It doesn’t take too much exposure to teenagers to realize that most of them are clearly not getting enough quality sleep. Advocates have suggested that we start school later for middle and high schoolers so that they will be able to get an extra hour of sleep which would greatly enhance their ability to concentrate and learn. Additionally, there is so much social media and other media stimulation that consumes much of their brain space that they rarely go off-line to regulate their brains and just rest.
In a recent article on the Imperfect Families website Nicole Schwarz writes on this topic and references the fact that rest is something teenagers will probably not ever ask for. Here are some excerpts:
When I was young, we had one main phone. Connected to the wall with a super long cord. The cord could stretch to the basement stairs, the only place you could talk in “private.” If someone was on the phone, you had two options. Wait. Or pick up another extension and say, “hurry up!” to whoever was talking. School day gossip traveled slowly. If you wanted to share info, you had to manually contact each friend individually. One phone call. One origami folded note at a time.
It’s only now, as I look back, that I realize the importance of this slow-moving communication.
Compare this to your teens’ experience. They are constantly one swipe away from gossip, updates, feedback (good and bad), trends, judgment, and heartache. They are surrounded by it at school. And it continues through the afternoon and well into the night. Unfortunately, it’s not just social media that our kids have to manage. It’s homework. College applications. Jobs. Sports. Extra-curricular activities. Relationships. There’s no end. There’s no escape.
What teens need.
This generation of teens misses out on a luxury we took for granted in years past. Rest. Your child rarely has a chance to just BE. To be present in the moment without worrying about who commented on their latest picture or what’s happening in the chat. This constant stress and pressure can be too much to bear. Unfortunately, they don’t even realize that rest is an option.
So as a parent or caregiver what can we do to help our teens find rest? There are some valuable suggestions in this article. Most of us have an intuitive sense that we are not getting the rest we need. Quite truthfully the busyness of the demands of our lives values productivity and all those tasks rather than taking the time to rest. We live in that kind of world and our teenagers are equally driven to a non-resting lifestyle. Perhaps this awareness can help us all take some time to encourage and facilitate rest and regulation. It could make a huge difference in our emotional and relational health and may even promote more productivity in the long run. Think about it!