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    My Parents Expect Too Much

    My parents are pushing me to get all A's in school, score high on my SATs and get into a top-ranked college. Even when I feel like I've done my best, I can always count on them to push just a little harder. How can I be sure that I'm not pushing myself too hard? And how can I break it to them if I don't get the perfect grades, high scores and acceptance letters they're counting on?
    When pressure builds, the first thing you need is a release valve. Talk about the stress you are feeling with someone you trust. A listening ear and some encouraging words will give you perspective on the situation. It will also give you strength to take the next step—talking with your parents.
    To make sure your talk with Mom and Dad doesn't turn into yet another source of stress, think through the conversation first. They need to know what you are feeling and how hard this is for you. You need to know what they are feeling and why this is all so important to them.
    Your parents probably want the very best for you, and they're trying to motivate you to go for it. Help them understand that getting into a good college is important to you, too, and that you are eager to make the most of your opportunities. Then share your concerns about what this stress is doing to you physically and emotionally. The last thing you want to do is sacrifice your own health and well-being for perfect grades and test scores.
    You and your parents will know you're pushing yourself too hard if you don't get enough sleep, if you don't make time to eat healthy meals, if you are losing touch with your friends, or if you are feeling depressed or overwhelmed all the time. A general feeling of tension in the house is also a sign that college concerns are looming too large. Every one in your family needs to act as a pressure gauge. A "critical" reading in any area means it's time for another heart-to-heart.
    Later on, if you do have "bad news" about grades or test scores or about not being accepted to a college, be honest about your own disappointment. Then remind your parents that you tried to do your best. They probably haven't succeeded at everything they've tried, either. If things are too difficult between you and your parents, bring a pastor, a teacher or trusted adult friend into the next conversation you have with them.
    If you learn to handle this challenge now, you'll be better able to establish healthy patterns for yourself in the future. You may end up being a good example for your parents. There may come a day they'll need to give themselves some of the grace you're learning to allow yourself.

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