Local school program wants to relieve student stress

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Homework, after-school activities and the pressure to succeed can make life stressful for teenagers.

On Saturday, Fairfax County Public Schools hosted nearly 1,000 students, parents, teachers and experts at its second annual day-long conference on teen stress at Hayfield Secondary School.

Following a rash of teen suicides in recent years, the school system organized the event to help families develop strategies to sharply curb teen stress.

“It’s kind of difficult,” says Kendall West, 13, of Alexandria. “Stress is always going to be in your life whether you like it or not. I think that the lessons we learned here are very helpful.”


The daylong conference included workshops on self-esteem, life balance, effective communication skills and teen depression.

“I think there’s a great need for this. I think our society as a whole is interested in mental wellness,” says Dr. Jane Lipp, the school system’s assistant superintendent of special services.

As a result, educators want to know why teenagers are so stressed.

“Unrealistic expectations, I think that is the major contributing factor. We’ve lost touch with a balanced life,” says Janice Dalton, assistant principal at Rolling Valley Elementary School in West Springfield.


The experts also advised parents to offer constructive criticism and to be supportive to their children.

“Parents really need to look at life as parents as being responsible, but not controlling, being helpful and loving and using a lot of humor,” says Felicea Meyer-DeLoatch, a school social worker.

And for teens, experts suggest they take things one step at a time.

“They told me to concentrate on what’s happening here and right now and not concentrate on everything else that could be happening,” Kendall says.

No one doubts the value of limiting teen stress. Ansley West, Kendall’s 14-year-old sister, suggests she does her best when she’s relaxed.

“Before a test in school or a performance in band, I get nervous … like the talent show that’s coming up, I want to make sure I stay calm before I begin,” Ansley says.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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