Today's Pressure on Teens: Can You Relieve It?
Sports cuts. The college application process. Community service. Today's teens feel more pressure than any other generation. They are expected to compete and win at a high level. At times, it can all be too much for a girl. Parents need to look at the situation and ask themselves: Is it me, society in general or a combination of both that's built up this pressure?
You've heard all the stories. Joey scored perfect on the SATs, captained two sports, and volunteered at the local hospital. But he still got rejected from his top three college choices. It is harder today to get into a college, and parents and schools are sending that message to children at a younger age. Most girls, by freshman year of high school, have begun thinking about what schools they want and what their chances are. While it is true that all your high school grades count when it comes to applying to college, that's a young age to have to think “did this C+ end my chances?” It is important for parents to take a step back and ask themselves, “Is it her dream I'm pushing for her to get or is it mine?” It might just be that your daughter would be just as happy at a small, easier-to-get-into school as she would be at the Ivy League school you've long dreamed of sending her to.
Don't push the family alma mater from a young age. While it was once a given that the next generation would get into the school, it no longer is. You don't want her to feel she's let the family down if she does not make it.
It is a good idea to tell your daughter as she begins high school that there are many schools that are lovely and that are not too difficult to get accepted to. Go to some of their Web sites and show her how nice they are and who went there and went on to greatness. Work from the beginning to help her have an initial school that she loves (and is relatively easy for her to get accepted into), then point out that attending that particular school is a given, so any reaches won't be as heartbreaking if she does not make them. And you may want to remove the term “safety school” from your vocabulary. In today's crazy college market, nothing is ever a sure thing. Rather than call something a safety school, just encourage your child to apply to one you know has lower expectations and keep that to yourself. And if you hear her say “it's a safety school,” remind her that nothing is a sure thing.
As hard as it is to do, work as a team to block out the propaganda you hear from other parents and teens. Sadly, the bulk of bad information (like, Sue was offered a full ride to College University but turned it down), comes from parents. Today's parents seem to be immersed in their child's future successes, and this can lead to your own child feeling pressure. Be blunt with her and just say it, “Sometimes, people lie.” If you can encourage her to block that out and focus on all types of schools, you may take some of the school pressure away.
Everyone else is allowed to camp out at the beach without parents one night. Everyone else is on birth control. Why, your daughter wants to know, can't she do and be all that everyone else is? Social pressures on teens are huge. From deciding if they want to take part in sex (see Chapter 11 for more on sex and dating), to feeling like they, too, should drink alcohol, girls have many decisions every day and feel peer pressure about them as well. One way to try to help her fight these pressures rather than give into them is to encourage her to join a school group like peer mediators or student council. Remind her, if she plays a sport, that being on that team is a privilege and that illegal or prohibited acts such as drinking alcohol or skipping classes will mean the end of that sport for her, not because you say so, but according to her school's rules.
What if your daughter suddenly wants to dress in a way you do not approve of? The goth look is one example. It's hard for parents to accept seeing their daughter change her outward appearance to something they are not comfortable with. You must show your daughter that instead of being an individual, she is in fact succumbing to peer pressure by adopting the new attire. But in the end, if she's a nice girl who gets good grades and does not act out, you may have to just accept a style you don't like for a while. But do not allow her to get a tattoo. Anything “forever” needs to wait until she is a true adult to decide.
Let her have her way with some smaller social pressures. You cannot let her attend a keg party, but you can let her get a belly button piercing, or a third hole in an ear. Showing her you are flexible might help when you have to say “no.”