Response to New York Times "Is the Drive for Success Making Our Children Sick" January 2 article (follow link below)
Excellent, but disturbing, article. I can tell you that my 16 year old regularly reports on stress related illnesses in her friends. One recently developed (what sounds like) an eating disorder and another has regular migraines (and has since 4th grade). Both of these kids are AP students and one is pushed intensely by her mother (I've known the mom for years). These are the worst cases, but sleeplessness and anxiety are a regular conversation at our dinner table. As the parent of a kid with learning differences, it is a constant anxiety on my part of when to push and when to let go. Luckily my kid talks to me extensively and I know when the stress is taking a toll, but I think many of her friends are at risk due to "suffering in silence" (because they accept it to be a normal part of teen life today).
The pressure to be the best and succeed (academically and extracurricularly) is intense in high school. I feel like an oddity because I don't push my kid to succeed in and out of the classroom. Being a kind, sensitive, good person with "good" (not excellent) grades is not nearly enough in the eyes of today's culture, and our kids know that. If, like my daughter, you are smart but have trouble navigating the current system, you perceive yourself to be "stupid." That's what I hear her call herself regularly, "stupid"--even though she is managing two honors classes and an AP class with learning disabilities.
The pressure is there for a reason though. Kids and parents know it's what you need to do for scholarships. No one can afford college!!!
It's an awful system and it is too much for adolescents. I hope this type of information comes to light more often so our expectations can be modified, and our kids can have more reasonable expectations of themselves.
Susan - (mom of 16yr old)