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My parents expect straight As…

… but they can’t see that I’m struggling!

Breathe, says our elder. Nobody needs to be perfect. Keep communicating with your parents and seek the support you need.

Dear EWC

I am in high school and all of the classes I am taking are at least advanced. As of right now I have all As and one B in honors chem, but I saw that my test score on the last chem test was a 66 percent. I also took a test in my AP history class and I am nowhere near confident about having passed that test. School is stressing me out so much right now and I am trying so hard but I don’t know if I am going to get the outcome that my parents want from me. My parents have always told me that I have to have straight As and they always tell me about how they both had straight As throughout their whole life. Every time I try telling them that I am struggling in school they don’t seem to understand that I am not them and that I actually am struggling. I also can’t drop out of any of my really hard classes since my school doesn’t have enough money to support enough of the easier classes for some reason. Anyways I am just super stressed and my parents don’t understand and I am stuck in my classes, so I really don’t know what to do. I don’t want my grades to suffer because I want to get into a good college and do well in my life.

Cairnie replies

You sound like a very bright, loving daughter who wants to do well in school but is feeling stressed from your parents’ expectations and worrying about grades and the future. Whew! No wonder! It also sounds to me like you are trying to tell your parents about how you are feeling and needing their understanding and support. Yet they don’t seem to understand, especially given their own school histories of excellence.
Breathe. You are exceptional, and your future is bright. Expecting perfection is not only unrealistic but as you have been experiencing, impossible and unhealthy. I’m sorry to hear that your parents don’t seem to see this and modify their expectations of you to be more realistic.

While I believe that your parents only want the best for you, I am confused about why they are not hearing your stress about expecting perfection. Given that, it seems to me that you need a different ear for your concerns.
Do you have any close family who you can talk to about this? A loving aunt or uncle who would understand and be a sounding board for you? Sometimes having a family member talk to your parents about your stress and need for more support and understanding can help.
Regardless, my advice right now is to talk with a counselor at school or your family doctor. It seems to me that your parents’ experience in life and school is not predictive nor relevant to your life right now. You are you. You are smart. You have been excelling. You are having a blip in grades (perhaps due to the stress you are feeling, which is understandable), and need support, not more stress.

I don’t believe you need to change classes necessarily, and I do believe that you are on track to a good college and life given your AP classes and grades. Just keep doing the best you can. Talk with a counselor at school about extra class help where you want it — a study group, a tutor, etc. Talk to your teachers in the classes where you feel you are struggling. Ask for their help to master the material — what specific advice and tips do they have for you to succeed in their class? When teachers know their students are serious about learning the material, they may be more helpful.

So my advice has three strands. Keep the lines of communication open with your parents. Continue to tell them not only how you feel, but what you need from them (more support, less pressure about grades, understanding that you are working as hard as possible, etc.). Secondly, seek advice from a counselor and teacher about how to bring up your grades in the classes where you find yourself struggling. Take small bites at the material. And thirdly, managing your stress.
You probably know how to manage your stress. Getting seven-to-eight hours of quality sleep every night. Eating healthfully. Exercise and physical activity. Finding time for fun (friends, hobbies, pets, etc). And often yoga, meditation, being in nature, religiosity, or other ways of tapping into your spirituality all help. And keep taking those deep breaths, bringing oxygen into your lungs, and exhaling the negative energy of stress.
There will be times in your life where you feel out of balance. This is one of them. Learning how to manage these blips in our equilibrium is a good skill to learn. So remember that you are human. Seek people who can support you, others who can guide you, and others that can distract you.

I have confidence that you’ll be back on your feet, with realistic expectations. And remember that where you go to college does not predict how well you’ll do in life. You will succeed in whatever college you choose.
You got this!

Letter #: 448716
Category: School

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