Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

The Achievement Frenzy

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There is no doubt in my mind that achievement pressures are affecting the health of parents and children. We seem to perceive that in order for our children to be successful, get into a good college, get a good job, get a good internship, and reflect well on our parenting ability, we need to push them to compete for the best grades, in the best schools, with the most extracurricular achievements possible.

We watch our children drag themselves out of bed, exhausted before the day starts, over schedule their afternoons, drive them to extracurricular activities, and try to contain our own anxiety that they are "not good enough" to stand out among their peers when it comes to the time they are being judged - whether it is for a spot at the college they want, or a job.

But how far are we willing to push for this success - is it at "any cost?" Is it worth their physical or mental health? Do you think the extra SAT tutoring, community service trip, or college prep course is really going to matter if it uses up all their free time during a school break and makes them feel like they are "not good enough?"

Colleges are seeing more and more freshman who get to college burnt out, stressed, depressed, and anxious, which really undermines their ability to succeed, and there is no parent available to "pick up the slack," spelling failure for many teens. In fact, most of these teens who do need to stop out, return home, refresh, refuel, and return to college to succeed, but they still feel bad.

We can avoid this by helping our teens stay balanced and get enough sleep, which increases concentration, coping skills, and ability to resist illness! We can also encourage non-competitive exercise, time to write, read, make music, and even daydream.

Other things that help include focusing on characteristics like honesty, sense of humor, kindness, generosity, passion, self-direction, and loyalty instead of grades and awards. Teens need us to support them finding out what they are good at and what they love - which may require some failure - which is all good!


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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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