Teaching teens how to simplify their schedules reduces their stress and empowers them. This is the message Lisa Bodell, best-selling author of Why Simple Wins and CEO of FutureThink, is sharing with Parentology readers.
Today’s teens are faced with academic, social and technological challenges unlike previous generations. An American Psychological Association survey shows teens report a higher level of stress than adults. Congruently, 31% of teens report feeling overwhelmed.
So, how can you help your teen manage life’s demands to reduce their stress level? “Simplification is a time/value equation,” Bodell says. “You should spend your time on things that are valuable.”
Bodell emphasizes, “time isn’t an unlimited resource, but people treat it like it is.” Getting your teen to understand time is their greatest commodity is key to managing it. They must be careful of how they use it and how they waste it.
Simplification Tools for Teens
Here are some recommendations Bodell offers for teaching teens how to approach simplification:
Teach them how to say “no.” This can be hard for teens and adults alike, but “no” is an important tool in protecting time. Bodell suggests teaching your children how to politely decline, “I’d love to, but I have to dedicate my time to (insert appropriate activity–studying, work, a school project).”
Time Box. Clarity on schedule restrictions, or thinking in terms of a time box, helps teens manage expectations. When invited to take part in an activity, Bodell recommends teens respond they’re happy to participate, but be steadfast and clear about the amount of time they have available, “I’m happy to help, but I only have an hour.”
Practice Mindfulness. Teens often find themselves overcommitting. To help keep them on track, Bodell says they should consider, “If I wasn’t doing this, what else could I be doing?” This exercise helps them realize everything they commit to takes time away from another task or interest they’d like to pursue.
Spell It Out. For a clear and tactical approach to simplification and prioritization Bodell recommends her T-Chart exercise.
T-Chart for Clarity
On the left-hand side of a piece of paper, write 20 things you spend your week doing. Circle those items you consider valuable with these questions in mind:
Why you circled them, and what made them valuable?
Why you spend time on those things?
Of the things that aren’t circled – why do you do them?
What can you eliminate or say NO to?
On the righthand side of the page, list 10 things you wish you had time to do. Ponder why you want more time for these things? What’s holding you back from doing them?
The goal of the exercise: to make space/time for things that matter and hold value.
Helping your teen adopt principles of simplicity will enable them to feel more in control over demands being placed upon them. Simplification is a great tool to keep your teen’s stress level reasonable and their schedule manageable.