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  1. #1

    Depression and stress

    I'm a 16-year-old senior in high school, tied for valedictorian, applying to college. I find myself getting more and more burnt out as time goes by. I signed up for so many classes this year, instead of deciding to "take my senior year easy" like everyone else- I have six AP classes and orchestra, which is actually one more bell than is in my school day. I have to tape lectures in my last class Friday so that I can go to orchestra once a week. I didn't think I would be overwhelmed- I've always dealt with everything just fine before. Yes, sometimes it got to be a lot or too much, but I always just dealt with it and moved on. I've been depressed before, too, but never this badly or this long. It's been on-and-off since late July, now.

    Right now I feel like I've lost control completely. There are two weeks left before first semester exams, and I have to turn in seven college applications, write a ten page research paper on tulipomania, write a short paper for psychology (oh, the irony), study for my exams, and go to a model UN conference the weekend before the actual exam week. I get my college decision from Harvard back December 15th (in the middle of exams- at least it's only the preliminary round of the application review). I know what I need to do in order to make it through this- just buckle down and do my work- but I'm so sick of everything that I can't find the energy to do anything. I've started to overeat (though it actually doesn't make that much of a difference, since I've always been very underweight), to slack off on schoolwork, and to get into more arguments with my parents.

    I feel like I don't have any friends- I have classes with a grand total of ONE person I actually hang out with, and the people I have the opportunity to see most are people who I don't always get along with- while we've been friends in the past, we had a really bad falling out in 8th grade, and I haven't been very close to anyone since. While we're in all the same classes and extracurriculars now, I feel like they whisper about me behind my back (and have some evidence that they actually do), and I'm definitely not considered a real friend by them- which just adds more stress. I have club meetings at lunch times, and I don't have time after school or on weekends to do much of anything besides homework and volunteering. The people I used to be best friends with are just sort of drifting away.

    It's not going to get any better before the end of the year. Over Christmas break, I'll have to do eight financial aid applications, scholarship applications, homework, produce the first semester issue of the school literary magazine, and get ready for February and March. Third quarter [January, February, and March] is always the hardest academically at my school, and at the same time I'll be dealing with organizing a 1300-person convention for one of my extracurriculars. When -that's- finally over in late March, the other college decisions will come in, and I'll have to figure out where I'm going to school (if I even get in anywhere I applied), before suddenly it's time to study for six AP exams. Then I have two weeks of APs, a week of school exams, and graduation.

    The only way I can see to make things better is just to drop something, but there's nothing I can drop. It's literally impossible (by school rules) to back out of classes after first quarter, and I wouldn't if I could- I love my classes, they're just a lot of work. I can't back out on any of my extracurriculars, they depend on me. And I can hardly stop applying to college.

    Sometimes right now I feel like I'm holding myself in- like there's nothing to do or be done, like I have nothing left in me to pull out. Half of me is happy, and half of me is sad. There are moments when I sit in class and things suddenly make sense, or when I get a few moments to talk to friends, or just to be by myself, when I'm really satisfied with who I am and what I'm doing. But most of the time, I'm just sick of the whole process. I tend to get depressed in late July and early August every year, right before my school starts, because I usually have a lot of summer homework and activities- my actual "relaxation" summer amounts to a few weeks in June, and then it's back to responsibilities. Usually, though, once I've settled into school again, I'm fine- stressed, yes, but fine. Now, I'm stressed and utterly depressed.

    I wanted to take all these classes so much- I was so excited about school this year, about everything I'd learn and do and accomplish, about being a senior and finally getting ready to go to college. But now that I'm here, everything seems like a giant grey puddle- I suddenly feel like I've been misleading myself all this time, like I don't really care about anything but having enough for my college resume. Yet at the same time, I know that's not true. I love JCL. I love working at the museum. I love the lit magazine (well.. no, not really, but I used to, still would if I didn't get laughed at for working on it, and now I'm obligated to work on it..). There are so many things in my life that I used to always be so happy about, so -excited- about, that I lived for and cared about and would do anything for. But now I'm never sure what to think or believe. I don't feel like I care about anything but sleeping and the computer- escaping first one way, by letting it all go, curling into myself for dreams, and then in another, by being someone else, putting distance and the cool hard certainty of words between my emotions and someone else's ears. I don't know what I'm trying to do any more. I thought I wanted to go to the best college, to drown myself in academics, to learn and strive to know and to succeed. But I feel like all that I'm discovering is that it's only in books that someone saves the girl who walls herself away- that in the real world, you have to reach out for anyone to care- because no one notices when you start to hide. No one's noticed how much I'm crawling away, pulling into this shell of a self, putting all my heart and emotions into characters in games and characters in books, into schoolwork and dinosaur bones. I spend an ungodly amount of time on roleplaying games, where at least I can pretend to be some other character with much simpler problems- or, at least, problems much less my own. It distracts me from how much I've started to hate my life.

    No one seems to pay attention. I know, in abstract, that my parents surely care, but they don't seem to. My mother is a workaholic- I tried telling her how frustrated I was yesterday, and she just told me that I needed to get back to work. When it turned into an argument, with me trying to get at least a little free time for myself, she was furious- she told me that if I had so much time to waste (she used the same expression when I went to go see friends home from college who I hadn't seen in months), I could at least take a break by doing a little housework. My dad genuinely cares, but doesn't have any ideas of what to do- I tell him how upset I am, and he just hugs me and tells me it'll be ok. It turns into an empty platitude- nice to hear, but it doesn't mean anything, really. I don't feel close enough to my friends any more to really talk to them, and the one time I tried, they just sort of laughed and told me I brought this on myself. I know they must care, surely, but I don't think they can tell how upset I am, because I physically can't talk to them in real life, leaving just the computer. I'm too afraid of what they would think to do much more than lash out, and when that happens, I at least get a few moments of sympathy (they know me well enough to know I don't mean it), but it quickly goes back to me walling myself in. I haven't had a boyfriend since eighth grade- I feel like people whisper about me all the time, and since I've never made a habit of reaching out to talk to people, I've built up a little wall of expectation that it's not something I do. Now, if I talk to a boy, it's an -event- in the eyes of others. The whispers start. People stare at me when I walk through the halls. I go to my locker in the morning and the eighth graders sitting outside their classrooms laugh at -me-. I've no idea how much worse it would be if I actually tried changing myself- wearing something other than jeans and a singly-drab-colored long sleeve shirt, talking to people other than the teacher in class, having *gasp* fun in school. I can only imagine the stares.

    And no one is going to take pity and pull me out. I don't have any way of finding someone who will actually talk to me, without just digging myself deeper into procrastinating (because, after all, according to mother I'm "wasting time" on friends) or attracting attention (I -hate- being stared at or whispered about, and it happens all the time- it's one thing I absolutely cannot stand). If there were something I could do, I would. But overachieving and perfectionism are like an endless treadmill- if you start out doing well, you only raise the bar higher and higher, until it's so completely unattainable that you have to sacrifice yourself to even come close. My parents always tell me that they'd love me no matter how I did in school- so why did I get a half hour long lecture for getting a B on one test earlier this year? There's no way to go back or stop what I'm doing- I'd feel like I was sacrificing everything I had done for everyone. And in the end, that's all I -am- doing: everything for everyone. I don't know what I want, anymore- it's been so long since I had a genuine interest that was solely my own, unshaded by any measure of expectation or guilt, that I really don't know what I would care about. I apologize compulsively. Every time my parents talk to me, I feel guilty.

    I don't really have any options. I can't change my classes or my extracurriculars. I should talk to my parents, but I can't- it hurts too much to try to explain something, and be constantly interrupted with suggestions or "well, Kate, if you spent less time on the computer, maybe you'd be less stressed!" (especially when the computer is currently my only outlet for emotions) or "wait, who is this person? You participate in what now?". I should talk to my friends, but I can't- I feel like I hardly know them well enough any more, and even if I did, I don't want to burden them, and even if I -did-, I wouldn't know where to begin. I don't want to change their opinions of me- I'm just barely holding onto the friendships I have without starting to whine to them constantly. I wish there was a professional I could talk to, but that would require either seeing the one at school (who is, reportedly, a wonderful person)- which I can't do because other people would find out and the gossips would spread it all over the school in hours- or telling my parents that I wanted to talk to a psychologist/psychiatrist, which would necessitate talking to my parents.

    That's all I wanted, really, to know that someone cared enough to reach down and bring me back to myself even when I'm at my worst, when there's nothing lovable or worth loving in me. But the proud and cold and alone are only saved in books- in the real world, I'll just keep walling myself off, until there's nothing left to breathe. It's too late to go any other way, isn't it? I don't know how to reach out from myself any more. Social atrophy.

    I don't know what to do. At least online, I don't have to face anyone and be judged and weighed and measured, go abruptly from receiving all of the approval and commendation to receiving pity and worry. I don't have to fear that my relationships with classmates or parents are going to change. All I have to do is type away aimlessly, rant about how miserable I am. I'm not even sure I have a right to do this- goodness knows I'm not as deserving of pity or help as some. I've always done well and succeeded when so many other people are struggling to do that. And here I'm sick of it- is that even fair? What right do I have to complain about anything, when I do well?

    But I can't stand how it feels to always be isolated. I've poured everything I have into meeting expectations, and they only ever get higher and more contradictory. My parents want me to do well. My teachers and counselors want me to do well. My peers want me to be normal (subconsciously, at least, that's what we're all being herded towards). My friends want me to be happy. I want to be happy, I suppose. But I can't -do- all of that. I can't be happy when I'm doing well. I can't be happy when I'm normal. I can't do well and be normal. Everything is mutually exclusive, and I just wind up running in circles. My whole life ends up concentrated in textbooks and grades and just doing well enough to get a smile from my parents occasionally. I've always gotten straight A's in all advanced classes (except for a B in third quarter chemistry in 10th grade, but since I got the highest grade on the exam, it sort of balances out), but my parents just tease me about "no improvement". The day my AP scores came this summer, and I found out I'd gotten all 5's (a big achievement), there wasn't any fanfare or excitement. I was ecstatic because I'd met my parents' expectations, and they just said "Nice job, Kate" and went back to talking about Mom's work.

    My sleeping has gone all strange. I overeat. I don't take showers or wash my hair as often as I should any more. I spend hours slaving over homework one day, and then none at all the next. I can't seem to be consistent or to settle down. I don't think my parents have noticed (well, mom complains that I stay up too late, but that's only because I supposedly keep -her- awake). Sometimes I try to go an entire day without talking, so that at least someone will notice something is wrong, but I always find myself slipping back into my usual "smile-and-nod" patterns so that people don't stare. I hate being watched and stared at, and it seems like it happens all the time- I walk through the halls at school without meeting anyone's eyes, head down, watching my feet. I move as quickly as possible, as if the less time I spend in the hall, the less attention I'll attract.

    I'm not sure why I'm writing this. I'm just as afraid of receiving platitudes from strangers as I am from parents and friends- I know I'll be told that I need to talk to someone (probable suggestions: parents, friends, therapists of various sorts), that it'll be ok, to stop stressing so much, to focus on what I want instead of what everyone else wants. It's what everyone tells me. But I don't know how to even begin. So here I am, writing an endlessly long, rambling stream of consciousness as though it will do me some good or as if anyone here will care. Goodness knows no one in the real world seems to.

    I'm not suicidal- I've been there before, and I know how it feels, though I haven't actually attempted to kill myself (I always stop right at the balcony railing- it's more fear of heights than anything that keeps me alive, I think). I feel suicidal when I have a bad week- when I get bad grades at school for a little while and my parents get angry; when I have problems with the few friends I've got left. Now it's just this endless sludge of emotion that's turning everything grey and brittle as glass. I can't deal with anything for fear that the scarce little structure of sanity that I've built up is simply going to break. I can't live because there's nothing of interest- I can have fun for an hour, two, three, but sooner or later I start to worry about what others think, about what I'm not getting done, about what mom will say when I come home. There just isn't anything here.

    I don't know what to do anymore. I'm not sure why I'm writing here- I don't know what there is to be said. But there it is.

    I'm not going to go back and re-read or edit this; if it's redundant, at least it's true to what I felt when I wrote it. I'm sorry it's so long, and to have bothered you.

    -K

  2. #2

    Depression and stress

    You've allowed yourself to be dug into a big hole, Kate -- there's no doubt about that. But it certainly is not too late to start making some changes, even if they can only be rather small ones for the moment. The alternative is to continue until you truly crash and burn and then what? You describe your mom as a workaholic -- do you want to be her?

    Perhaps you're right when you say there's little you can do but maybe you're just not thinking little enough. You can't drop a course, or skip an assignment. But can you not back off just a hair on how much workaholism you put into completing those assignments? Can you settle for a 4.95 instead of a 5? Can you learn to say "no" to some of those extracurricular activities? Can you enlist some assistance and learn to delegate some of the work to others in the activities you've already taken on?

    It's a cliche, I know -- almost a joke -- but it really is about "baby steps": Start making one or two or three small changes wherever you can and you just might find that those small positive changes snowball the way the negative aspects of your life have in the past few years.

  3. #3

    Depression and stress

    I'm so sick of everything that I can't find the energy to do anything...My sleeping has gone all strange. I overeat. I don't take showers or wash my hair as often as I should any more. I spend hours slaving over homework one day, and then none at all the next. I can't seem to be consistent or to settle down...there's nothing of interest.
    As you know, these are all symptoms of depression (lack of energy, increase or decrease in appetite, difficulty sleeping or sleeping more or less than usual, less attention to appearance, lack of interest). I would definitely seek out counseling from some professional, and doing so could help your parents to understand the seriousness of your depression. You may also want to see your traditional school counselor to see if the the last semester of grades is of much importance to your desired colleges...often it's not.

    I thought I wanted to go to the best college, to drown myself in academics, to learn and strive to know and to succeed.
    Of course, less can be more. Academia is supposed to be about freeing the mind and solving life's problems, not enslaving the mind and creating more problems. Nietzsche did a great job in showing that the desire for knowledge is not inherently good.

    I can only agree with the sentiment that you will have a breakdown--"crash and burn"--if you don't take it easy on yourself and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

    On the positive side, depression does have an evolutionary/biological purpose--to have you reassess your situation and make changes.
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  4. #4

    Depression and stress

    What about printing out what you wrote and sharing it with the counselor at school? You might want to edit out the part about suicide if you're really not feeling suicidal.

  5. #5

    Depression and stress

    Sharing the post with the guidance counselor is a great idea. Also, the school guidance counselor would best be able to help you decide how to break from some of the extracurricular activities. I wouldn't worry about what others may think if they find out you saw the guidance counselor. Lots of kids see the guidance counselor for all kinds of reasons like a death in the family, and depression, of course, is nothing to be ashamed about. Regardless, you won't see most of your peers ever again after graduation.

    For some perspective, a decade ago, in my small AP Biology class, one girl was visibly depressed because her father died. Since we were a small close group, our class of six or seven students all chipped in and bought her family a fruit basket (after this was suggested by our teacher). We never knew if she saw the guidance counselor, and it was none of our business if she did. I don't remember the girl's name now, and I never saw her again after high school.
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  6. #6

    Depression and stress

    You describe your mom as a workaholic -- do you want to be her?
    No. Above all else, no. While I love my mother dearly, I can't stand her.

    But can you not back off just a hair on how much workaholism you put into completing those assignments? Can you settle for a 4.95 instead of a 5? Can you learn to say "no" to some of those extracurricular activities? Can you enlist some assistance and learn to delegate some of the work to others in the activities you've already taken on?
    I can try. And it would help. But I don't know how to start. How can I even begin to tell when I'm just "backing off on workaholism" and when I'm giving in to apathy and stopping altogether? It doesn't seem like there's that much of a difference. My grades have already started slipping; I'm barely holding an A in one class (which just makes for more stress with my parents). It's even harder to see the difference between lessening what I'm doing and giving up and becoming a bad person when my parents don't think there is one. I don't know how I could start.

    Academia is supposed to be about freeing the mind and solving life's problems, not enslaving the mind and creating more problems.
    When it works out, rather than just creating stress, school is the best part of my life (it used to be the best part all the time). When calculus or Latin suddenly fit together, it's really magical. The days when those happen are my only good days right now. The stress from school, though, is forcing under all of the things I used to like about it.

    What about printing out what you wrote and sharing it with the counselor at school?
    But my counselor at school is also my college counselor- she's the one writing my recommendations for Ivy League schools, where if I want to get in at all, I can't have any flaws. If I want to do at all well, I can't let things like this show through or show up- what would she say about me in my recommendations if she knew that school wasn't easy for me right now? And then what?

    I feel like there's too much dependent on this year- or, ultimately, just on me and how I do- for me to make any mistakes. That if I get anything wrong or do a less than perfect job, everything is going to crash. I know that's not true. But irrationally, that's most of the reasoning behind how I do in school and life- well and horribly. School matters, life doesn't.

    Regardless, you won't see most of your peers ever again after graduation.
    The only good thing.. in six months, this will all be over, and none of it will matter. But I don't know if I could survive six months of people watching me and whispering. At least the girl in your class had a legitimate reason to be depressed- mine is my own fault and my own stupidity. If someone sees me going to the school psychologist, they'll think I can't handle what I signed up for, that I'm not good enough to be valedictorian or to go to a good college. I'll have failed all of their expectations. I can't do that. I don't know how. I never have yet. And if I did now, I don't know what there would be left to aim towards or look for- my whole life is meeting expectations and doing as well as everyone expects- my parents, my relatives, my friends, the random kid in the hall who just knows me as some smart senior. I have to at least keep up with that, or I won't have any identity left. The expectations have just gone higher and higher, and taken over more and more of my life, until now there really isn't anything else left. It sucks, yes, and I don't really enjoy it, but at least I know what I'm supposed to be doing- if I didn't have expectations to meet, I don't know what else would be left in my life. I hardly do anything but meet them anymore. It's my own stupid fault, and I hardly have a right to complain. But I do, because I have dug myself into a hole, and I've no idea how to get out.

    -K

  7. #7

    Depression and stress

    Quote Originally Posted by Kate
    my whole life is meeting expectations and doing as well as everyone expects- my parents, my relatives, my friends, the random kid in the hall who just knows me as some smart senior. I have to at least keep up with that, or I won't have any identity left.
    I would try to just take one day at a time. Believe it or not, having a strong sense of identity or an ideal self-image isn't necessary for happiness or for achieving traditional notions of success:

    In his book, Thoughts Without a Thinker, Mark Epstein writes of our concept of self, as essentially an idea that we dream up while young. As time goes on, we become more and more attached to this idea, and try to protect it, leading to all sorts of problems. Since it is just a fixed idea -- and one made up by a child, no less -- it cannot possibly be an accurate representation of an ever-changing human living from moment to moment. As such, while preserving this self-concept, are in a constant battle to defend something which is indefensible.

    The issue here, of course, is that defending the indefensible is no way to be happy. Therefore, we should stop the deceiving ourselves and really examine this issue.

    The solution to all this, Epstein (and Buddhists), would say, is to simply drop this ridiculous concept of 'who we are', and to start being what we are! Who we are is not a fixed image, but an ongoing story. It is not only new in this very moment, but will be new again, in the next moment.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoughts_Without_a_Thinker
    Of course, the late Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood) was well-known for trying to instill this idea in both children and in adults...that we are "special" just by being human...not because of what we do or how we perform. This is why some point out that we are called "human beings" not "human doings." Even adults benefit from Fred Rogers' old songs for children, which is why Fred included the song below in one of his books for adults:

    It's you I like,
    It's not the things you wear,
    It's not the way you do your hair--
    But it's you I like
    The way you are right now,
    The way down deep inside you--
    Not the things that hide you,
    Not your toys--
    They're just beside you.

    But it's you I like--
    Every part of you,
    Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
    Whether old or new.
    I hope that you'll remember
    Even when you're feeling blue
    That it's you I like,
    It's you yourself,
    It's you, it's you I like.

    --"It's You I Like," a song by Fred Rogers
    Related post: The Curse of the Self
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  8. #8

    Depression and stress

    To me, one of the bravest things anyone can do is ask for help. It takes so much courage and I have so much admiration for people who do. I really can't put into words how deeply I believe this.

    Asking for help wouldn't mean you're weak or that you're not what other people think you are. It just means you're human.

    Just my thoughts, for what they're worth.

  9. #9

    Depression and stress

    My grades have already started slipping; I'm barely holding an A in one class (which just makes for more stress with my parents).
    Of course, grades are just subjective measures of what you may understand about subjects that may or may not be useful later in life. The most important things in life--like staying alive by avoiding drunk drivers--don't get graded. Simiarly, most adults are rather simplistic in their daily meditations on money.

    It may help to feel a little rebellious like most teens about the issue of grades in order to be calm enough to be interested in or focused on whatever task is at hand...even if the task is just opening a textbook during TV commericals.

    Again, I am not alone in suggesting that you talk to a therapist (in or outside of school) about your depression. It's not your fault that you are feeling burned out. It's just human nature and burning out is always a risk with high achievers, such as my former college roommates who took 17-18 credits of courses during some semesters. Also, software programmers burn out so often there is a section about burning out in a book on software development.
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  10. #10

    High Achievers: What Price Are They Paying?

    Related article:

    High Achievers: What Price Are They Paying?
    Carleton Kendrick Ed.M., LCSW

    A Harvard Interviewer's Honest Assessment
    They come to me with SATs pushing 1600 and more awards than military heroes. The valedictorians. The student leaders. The super-jocks. They are applying to Harvard. They are the children you want your kids to become.

    For the past 17 years, I've been an alumni interviewer for Harvard. As part of its admissions process, Harvard extends applicants an opportunity to meet with one of its alumni. To personalize the process. To allow its applicants to "come alive," apart from their strategically packaged portfolios.


    Acknowledging that most teens walk into these interviews with understandably heightened anxiety, my initial focus is on helping them exhale their fears and worries about impressing me. "We're here so that Harvard can get to know you a little better. There are no right or wrong answers. We're just going to chat for a while," I offer calmly.

    I try to get beyond their Miss America-like, rehearsed responses -- "Harvard is the best environment available for me to pursue my pre-medical studies." I'm looking for clues as to whether they'd make considerate roommates, inquisitive scholars, and generous contributors to Harvard's community. Most often, these frightened, pressured high-achievers have trouble finding their own voice. Instead, I hear them speak in the boilerplate, programmed, success-oriented words of their parents, teachers and college coaches.


    Running on Empty
    He listed cross-country as a sport he took up in his junior year. No athletic endeavors had preceded his high-school running. I asked John* (all names ahev been changed) what had drawn him to distance running and why he came to pursue it his junior year. He replied matter-of-factly, "My guidance counselor told me it would look good on my transcript if I had a sport. He said that colleges looked for well-rounded kids and that I needed something like a sport to look better for colleges. Time was running out and my junior year was the last year I could get a sport in before I sent in my applications. I joined cross-country because everyone makes it who tries out." "Do you like running? Does it give you pleasure?" I hoped. "No," was his hollow reply.

    Peter had scored two 800s on his SATs and was recognized as a National Merit Scholar. As we spoke of his favorite high-school classes, I asked whether he had ever challenged any of his English teachers' opinions in class. Looking down at the floor, he spoke softly. "Sure, I used to disagree lots of times. I mean, there's no absolute right answer when it comes to knowing whether an author was using her own life or not as the basis for the main character, right? But every time I'd disagree with this teacher or our textbook's opinion I'd end up getting marked down for it. So I learned it's better to tell teachers what they want to hear so you'll get a better grade." Sadly, there was no anger or disappointment in his voice.

    Sarah, class valedictorian and winner of numerous, prestigious math and science awards, spoke with a dull and disembodied affect about her academic triumphs and her future, "Math and science have always been easy for me. I don't like them nearly as much as literature but they're what I do best. I guess I'll major in them in college, get a graduate degree in them and then get an engineering job and get married. That's what my parents (survivors of Cambodia's killing fields) expect. They want me to get an engineering job and to get married as soon as I get my graduate degree. I hope that I can save up enough money so that I can retire early, like in my 50s, and travel." Sarah was 17, a broken sparrow, dying to be middle-aged.

    Stressed for Success
    Heard enough? I have. Over the past two decades, the children I've interviewed have become progressively more packaged for success. They've been advised, scared, and professionally coached into believing that school's only purpose is to get the grades that will gain them admission into an elite college. College must then result in a degree that translates into a high-paying job and a secure financial future. That's the plan. The only plan. It's no wonder that a recently released American Council on Education survey of more than 348,000 college freshmen reports that, "Academic credentials, rather than a love of learning, seem to be their motivation." Shame on us all.


    We begin telling kids by eighth or ninth grade, "It all counts now! Every grade, every sports performance, every activity in or out of school. You're building your permanent record for college. It's time to get serious." As one student explained, "The big transcript worries start freshman year and your whole future is pretty much determined by the end of junior year in high school." We actually start scaring them much earlier than middle school. I've got a list of third-and fourth-grade therapy clients who have seen me for school-related stress to prove it.

    Free to Be
    So how do you raise kids to be high achievers without their suffering anxiety, dread, and abject resignation? Stop hurrying and stealing their childhood, structuring and scheduling their every waking moment; read or re-read David Elkind's prophetic, cautionary, The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon (Perseus Books, 1988). Don't frighten them into believing in and following your master plan for academic and career success. Begin telling them as preschoolers that you love and admire them for who they are, not for the grades and achievements that they bring you. Encourage their own natural academic and extracurricular interests, regardless of whether they are deemed portfolio-advisable by costly college "handlers." Urge them to volunteer and to serve others and do so together -- as part of your family's values, not because it will look good on their college transcripts. In short, love and support them as they challenge and search for themselves, fulfill their dreams and become the people they choose to be.

    http://www.familyeducation.com/artic...-23038,00.html
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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