Sex, Drugs and SATs

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Stress and Violence


Fact: By the time they get to high school, most teens have killer schedules. They may be juggling part-time jobs and caring for siblings along with their schoolwork, community service projects, AP classes, SAT prep courses and summer internships.

The college-admission process ratchets up the stress level. And you may be partly to blame. Many experts say overambitious parents push children to perform and expect them to reach goals that may be unattainable and inappropriate.

What you can do now: Remember that you're raising a child, not crafting a r?sum?, and consider the ways you may unwittingly pile on pressure instead of fostering the enthusiasm for learning that will help her excel in the long run. "If you micromanage your child's life, she'll get the message that you don't think she's capable of handling things on her own," says Koplewicz.

Help her put life's ups and downs into perspective, says Koplewicz. Rejection, difficult at any age, is most piercing during adolescence, but it's an essential life lesson. Stifle your own disappointment while you challenge extreme reactions ("This is the worst day of my life!") by pointing out that the world doesn't end just because she wasn't offered a part in the school play. Re-frame the experience for her by asking, "What did you learn from all this?" "Kids are resilient," says Koplewicz. "Let them know you have faith that they can pick themselves up after a setback and move on."


Fact: According to the CDC's latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 17 percent of students carried a gun, knife or club to school during the 30 days preceding the survey; nearly 8 percent were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property and 5 percent of students had missed one or more days of school during the preceding month because they were afraid to be there. And while teen violence is decreasing from a high in the early '90s, The National Education Association says that threats, ridicule and other forms of harassment are increasingly common in classrooms today.

What you can do now: "Even kids in good neighborhoods say they are worried," says Koplewicz. "Remind them that school is probably one of the safest places they could be." The U.S. Department of Education confirms that 43 percent of schools had no violent incidents, and fewer than one percent of teen homicides occur in school. Encourage them to take an active role in making their school safer, such as organizing assemblies or rallying in support of gun control. Use tragic news events as a catalyst to get kids to share their feelings -- and relieve anxiety. When they do tell you something, take it seriously. "Many kids don't confide in their parents because they don't want to worry them -- or because they think their fears will be dismissed as silly or false," says Koplewicz.

Continued on page 3:  The Judgment of Their Peers


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