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Sophomores: Independence-Bound

No longer the smallest fish in the high-school pond, tenth graders are on the move. With increased age comes increased responsibility, self-knowledge and -- most prized of all -- freedom. From driver's ed to dating, sophomores are independence-bound.

  • Juggling freedom with responsibility can be tough going. You and your son agree on a curfew, then he "forgets" and comes home an hour late. Or your daughter has friends over and they leave soft drink cans all over the place. There are endless discussions about consequences. When will they understand that privileges have to be earned?

  • A typical tenth grader is likely to bounce from one extreme to another, changing enthusiasms, attitudes, hair, clothes -- you name it -- with dizzying frequency. Causes are passionately taken up and abruptly dropped. Today's fad is tomorrow's fizzle. Identities are adopted and discarded like Halloween masks. It's all part of answering the big question, Who Am I?

  • Does your adolescent tend to over-analyze? Spend big chunks of time obsessing about small things, such as what to wear to a party or exactly what so-and-so's passing comment really meant? Lots of kids this age are still learning the distinction between the kind of thinking that's helpful and the kind that's counterproductive.

  • Conversation -- like oxygen -- is key to teenage survival, and not surprisingly, the telephone becomes a rich source of family friction. A good rule of thumb? No socializing until homework is finished. But keep in mind that every rule has exceptions. If you have several children, a second phone can help eliminate the hair-tearing.

  • Despite their social excesses, teens crave privacy. They disappear into the bedroom and lurk behind closed doors, doing nothing for hours on end. Or is there more to it? Maybe it's the best way to regress a little and be a kid again -- to daydream, fantasize, grab a favorite stuffed toy. Being a sophomore is, after all, exhausting.

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