Does it feel like the standards keep rising while opportunities dwindle? No longer is a Bachelor’s degree sufficient. You now need a Master’s, and even then, you might end up in the unemployment line. This is the financial climate our teens are growing up in. The climate we parents are raising our teens in. With so much at stake, how can we help position our children for long-term success without destroying them in the process?

It was ten o’clock on a school night, and my daughter was just getting home from a four hour play rehearsal. Play practices were stealing our family time, her study time, and her ability to get the rest she needed to stay healthy and alert. As an A student with a challenging course load, she’s overtired and overwhelmed on a good day. Add in the demands of an extra-curricular activity, and it’s enough to send her over the edge. My husband and I were faced with a difficult and confusing dilemma: Did we encourage her to persevere, even if it hurt her academics? Or did we pull her out to allow her to focus on other commitments?

According to child psychologist, Dr. LeaAnn Lape-Brinkman from Woodhaven Counseling Association in Omaha, Nebraska, many families face the same challenges. “It seems children and teens have more pressure and stress placed on them than ever before,” Dr. Lape-Brinkman says. “School has very high expectations of children, and children are learning to read or write earlier than in past generations. Many schools also assign homework.”

In fact, it’s not unusual for a high schooler to have four to six hours of homework in one night. Add that to the eight hours they already spend in school, another two or three for extra-curricular activities, and they’re pulling a fifteen hour shift easy.

“Many families I work with have appointments, practices, lessons, etc., until eight or nine pm every night,” Dr. Lape-Brinkman says. “There’s no opportunity for family dinners or for children to relax.”

On the other end of the spectrum, statistics tell us our children are spending more time than ever using media devices.

Is it any wonder, then, that parents and educators are seeing an increase in student anxiety and aggression and a decrease in school performance? So what’s the answer? Unplug all cell phones, cancel all activities, and spend every night gathered around the dinner table? There might be times when parents indeed need to do just that, but what about the other necessary character traits our students need to develop? Traits like determination, perseverance, and time management? Because let’s face it, in the real world, there are times when an unexpected deadline hits and we have to muscle through.

These are the things my husband and I continue to wrestle with, but in the wrestling, we’ve found a few solutions. For us, most of our business comes from a failure to plan ahead or fully think things through. Therefore, we determined to become more pro-active with our schedules and to prayerfully prioritize each opportunity.

This does numerous things: First, it centers our family in unity by reminding everyone that each person’s activity level affects the family as a whole. Unity is crucial for a healthy and thriving family (Mark 3:25). Second, it allows us to consistently align our hearts and priorities with God’s. Third, it shows our daughter how important it is she does the same. Finally, it takes the sense of urgency of the decision. If you have a teen, you understand what I mean. They often feel they need to make every decision right now! Unfortunately, when they do, they may very well regret their decision later.