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Parental guidance: Teens and stress

Teens fill out job applications as they look

Teens fill out job applications as they look for jobs at the Southampton Youth Bureau's Job Fair at the Hampton Bays Community Center on the evening of May 18, 2010. Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Experts often say parents need to have high expectations for their kids, because kids will live up to what's expected of them. How do parents of teens balance that against the amazing amount of pressure kids feel to get perfect grades?

Your expectations shouldn't be solely about grades or perfection, they should be about effort, says Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, author of "Letting Go With Love and Confidence: Raising Responsible, Resilient, Self-Sufficient Teens in the 21st Century" (Avery Trade).

Ginsburg, who has 16-year-old twin girls, addressed this question recently during a parenting presentation to more than 100 people at the Sid Jacobson JCC in East Hills. "You can put in a great effort and get a C. Or you can put in not a lot of effort and get an A." The child putting in the effort is meeting expectations; focus on the process and not the results, he says.

Not every child will take multiple Advanced Placement classes, want to travel to Botswana to work on a water- purification project during summer vacation, or get into an Ivy League university. And doing those things won't ultimately determine his success as an adult, Ginsburg says. The expectations of your child should focus primarily on character -- believe in your child unconditionally and expect your child to be his best self, Ginsburg says.

His best self shouldn't be measured by SAT scores or grades, but by his or her integrity. "That's what I mean by high expectations," Ginsburg says.

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