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Friday, May 27, 2022

“Kids really still aren’t doing well”: Colorado teens feel pressure of perfecting post-pandemic isolation

Ariane Herrera Cárdenas has always placed high hopes on herself, even in middle school, and the stakes have only increased when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is ready to graduate from Early College in about two weeks.

In the fall, the 18-year-old will become the first in her family to go to college and the burden of being successful is on her. A senior Ariane decided she needed to save money for college so she started working part-time at Home Depot.

“The decisions I have to make now are important for me to set an example for my siblings,” she said.

She is not alone in worrying about the future. Colorado teens have faced immense pressure to succeed in academic and extracurricular activities, such as sports, for more than a decade. Now, they are coming of age as the United States emerges from the worst pandemic in a century and teens and mental health experts are feeling that pressure even more than ever before.

Teens told The Denver Post that anything less than perfection in school or extracurriculars can feel like a failure that will affect them into adulthood.

Jollette Oseguera Martinez, a junior at KIPP Denver Collegiate High School, “I have friends who cry over this.” “They cry because of their grades and they don’t think they’re going to be successful.”

The pandemic has added to the stress teens feel for more than two years as they have suffered constant trauma, whether through losing a loved one to COVID-19 or financial, food, or housing insecurities, Jenna Glover, a psychologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

They’ve missed out on major milestones like prom, which typically make up the American high school experience.

“The kids really still aren’t doing well and the stress they’ve been experiencing over the past two years is having residual effects,” Glover said.

While teens welcome a return to in-person classes in the fall, the transition hasn’t always been easy.

They have less attention than before, but are facing higher academic workloads as teachers try to catch them. Adolescents developed different study habits as remote-learning transferred quizzes and tests to computers instead of using paper and pens, and they were given more time to complete assignments.

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