Teenagers learn to manage social stress on a gap year

The beginning of the school year can be a terrifying time for the teenage mind. New expectations, new routines, and worst of all, new friends, all combine to create the perfect storm of social anxiety or social stress.

Going into college prepared means having learned these skills to a ‘T,’ and students who can effectively navigate social settings, as well as manage and reconcile conflicts are in the best position for success in the college years.

New research highlighted in the New York Times from David S. Yeager, ‘a leading voice in the growing effort to help college students stay in school,’ and Carol Dweck, famous for her work with growth and fixed mindsets, have pointed to teens ability to learn social anxiety coping strategies. These are skills that can be taught, not predilections permanent for life.

Critical to the research, teenage depression is at nearly 11 percent, and high stress is a daily reality for many teenagers. Despite that, rates of coping skills have been deemed “weak.”

At Winterline, we’ve structured all of our gap year programs to be heavily oriented toward these peer-related skills, skills that we see as essential for life, career, and work in the 21st century. From the very start or our program orientations, students become equipped with skills in team-building and leadership, non-violent communication, and conflict mediation. Throughout their months abroad, experienced Field Advisors act as teachers and mentors, leading by example on how to navigate conflict, how to negotiate, bargain, as well as empathetically listen to peers and colleagues.

Dr. Yeager’s suggestion that students learn ways to “hold onto a long view” is exactly what we teach during our Global Skills Programs. When you travel the world and learn skills in their appropriate context, you immediately begin to connect the dots between what you’re doing on a daily basis and the impacts you can have in the world.

The gap year is the perfect opportunity to distance yourself, recalibrate, and figure out what you’re good at and how you want to impact the world.