My 13-year-old puts so much pressure on herself to do well at school, and her after school activities, that I'm concerned what will happen when she doesn't get an A (or B) in her report card or doesn't excel at her piano and gymnastics. How can I help take the pressure off her to perform at a high standard in everything she does? 

High performers often have high expectations of themselves. If they have a strong work ethic, they can certainly apply an immense amount of pressure to themselves to do well. As a parent it is really important at this age to be a role model yourself. So think carefully and do a quick review about ‘what you say’ and ‘what you do’. Are they the same? You may say ‘grades don’t matter’ yet she may ‘see disappointment in your face or voice’ if she doesn’t quite measure up.

Make sure that your teenager has ‘down time’ which is time doing nothing, relaxing time. She will need thi
s during the week as well as on weekends. There should be at least one day free from any activity for her from Monday to Friday – this can be book reading time, walking along the strand time, time spent doing another interest or craft. Craft, colouring in, puzzles are making a come back as we realize the value in creative-free time for us all.

Next I would challenge her with new experiences. High performing kids tend to stick to the same activities that they achieve highly in and keep doing the same old. They are not confident often to try new things in case they are not the best at it. So look around for new activities whether it be rock climbing, yoga, drawing in an informal way, do it together, try to avoid organized activities and classes. Compliment her on abilities and strengths that have nothing to do with achievement like: being a good friend, honest, being fun, organized, helpful, nice to be around, sensitive – build her sense of self outside her academic achievements.

Also add a bit more fun into your family. Everyone can grab a pot of pencils and a pad and sit outside and draw for an hour on the weekend or take photos, do some gardening, go for a walk,have a picnic, visit a new place in your city – try to do it as a family and yes it doesn’t have to cost a cent. Lighten life up a little.

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