Approaching the Height of Social Stress
Teaching Teenagers to Cope with Social Stress by Jan Hoffman
New York Times, September 29, 2016
While you can find a litany of articles documenting the increasing concern over the stress that teenagers face these days, the literature is short on effective interventions. The New York Times chronicles the research of psychologist Daniel Yeager that offers promising and practical studies on how to teach teenagers to cope with social stress. The interventions are student-driven and apply the same concepts as the mindset work that has been so influential on the academic side. Dr. Yeager has ninth grade students read a brain science article about how personality can change, and he follows that with anecdotes from older students about how they resolved high school conflicts in the past. As a crucial final step students write an encouraging letter to younger students wherein they reflect on a situation in which they faced social rejection and then offer advice on how to handle it. Dr. Yeager states that “as these freshmen reflect on how they coped in middle school, the exercise forces them to put things in perspective.” These studies provide models for how we can help students cope with the height of social stress in the early teen years and offer another example of how mentoring younger students provides just as much value to the mentors.