Overstressed girls a national problem

Healthy reading

March 03, 2006|By MARY BETH REGAN

Stressed-out Girls: Helping Them Thrive in the Age of Pressure

By Roni Cohen-Sandler

Viking/$24.95

It's no piece of cake being a young girl in today's competitive world.

This book, published last year, paints a troubling picture of the pressures adolescent girls face. Even to an adult the list is exhausting: Acceptance to the "right" school, excelling at sports and academics, performing well on the SATs, getting into the "right" college.

Cohen-Sandler is clinical psychologist and author of I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You! and Trust Me Mom, Everyone Else is Going! At first she thought the phenomenon of overstressed girls was confined to wealthy areas of the East Coast. But while researching articles for Girls' Life and Seventeen magazines, she found girls nationwide walking a tightrope of anxiety.

The reporting includes e-mails from girls who flooded Cohen-Sandler's inbox with tales of being overwhelmed, exhausted and insecure. One girl writes: "My parents live in a certain area that's considered good. If I have something to do, like a debate tournament, that's okay, but I should also be doing my homework while I'm there. I'm always doing two things at once."

To help parents and teachers recognize warning signs of overstressed girls, Cohen-Sandler identifies at-risk groups, including girls in transition, square pegs, insecure girls, perfectionists and distracted girls. Her message to parents: True success comes only when girls follow their dreams and feel good about who they are, not who others want them to be.

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