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How Happy Are Your Kids?

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The Pressure's On

Stressed? Yes, say 60 percent of teens and nearly half of tweens. Here's why:

  • Fear of other kids. Half of tweens -- both boys and girls -- worry about being made fun of. Worse, a full 19 percent fear they'll be beaten or attacked. Kids with these concerns may stop calling and hanging out with friends, spend most of their time at home, act clingy, and become sullen and withdrawn or angry and irritable, says Ron Zodkevitch, MD, a psychiatrist and member of Family Circle's advisory board. "Talk about what's going on. If you suspect bullying, insist that the school take action."
  • Body image. Nearly half of teens are concerned about their looks; 38 percent fret about weight. The antidote? Praise kids for their efforts, not their appearance. And be careful about criticizing your own or other people's looks -- your kids are listening. Remind them that models and actors are professionals whose career is all about working hard at looking good -- they don't represent the rest of us.
  • Cyberintrusions. Kids to parents: It's not sex and violence on TV you should worry about, it's what we see online. Your kids are right, says James P. Steyer of Common Sense Media, a kids' media organization. "TV is passive. With new technology, kids reveal themselves to millions, often without understanding what the consequences could be."

No One to Turn To

Worried kids are less likely to talk with their parents. "Teens are more inclined to share feelings when they're doing something," says Borba. "Invite them to make the salad or stir the sauce during dinner prep. Or plant yourself in a spot where they're likely to be receptive -- in front of the refrigerator at 5 o'clock." Get in your kid's culture zone -- even if it bores you. Is she crazy about GameCube? Kelly Clarkson? Hilary Duff? Google them!