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Juniors: Hitting Their Stride

They're stepping out and liking the way it feels. For high-school juniors, school's cool and things are cookin' -- until they're reminded of what lies ahead. Rare is the student who hasn't been warned that this year really counts. The heat's on to boost academic credentials and polish a personal profile for college. Counterbalancing the anxiety are deepening friendships and a growing sense of self.

  • As the year unfolds, your child may behave like a yo-yo. One minute she's full of confidence, riding high; the next she's lamenting the SATs and ACTs or wallowing in the aftermath of a failed romance. There's a lot going on at once, and there are bound to be a few histrionics or explosions.

  • Your teen's age-typical mixture of anxiety and cockiness shouldn't be an excuse to throw a lifetime's worth of manners out the window. If his behavior borders on the cavalier or rude, you have every right to draw the line. Juniors may be hitting their stride, but they shouldn't be allowed to trample feelings.

  • As kids become more sophisticated, there's likely to be an odd disconnect between intellect and action. Thought processes often don't translate into real life. "Carlos is a passionate environmentalist," says one mother, "But then he wastes gallons of water taking long showers, or he leaves all the lights on."

  • Older teens are increasingly fascinated with logic and are itching to challenge yours, particularly if it pushes an emotional button. There's a distinct thrill in anticipating your reaction to a political, religious, or moral question and responding with a dazzling rebuttal.

  • Using parents as sounding boards to develop their own positions is actually a good exercise for young adults. As their social lives become more complex -- and private -- they're better armed to deal with peer pressure, speak up in the face of opposition, and resist risky behaviors.

More on: High School

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