For many parents, September brings the blessing of getting to send the kids back to school - a safe and stimulating environment where they will be mentored, protected and enriched, where new universes of knowledge will open up for them to explore with supportive and sensitive teachers and peers.
But, along with the optimistic rush that a fresh start can bring, comes worry about the unknown. What peer pressure is lurking in that new grade or new school? What little ne'er-do-wells populate that new afterschool program?
A recent study reveals that the biggest (29 percent) back-to-school fear in moms' minds is that their children will be exposed to kids who drink and use drugs. Certainly understandable. This was followed closely by worries that teens "will feel pressure to do well academically or pressure from tests" (22 percent). That one surprised me. I guess things have changed mightily in the 20-plus years since I was a teen. Let me just say this; the fear that I was putting too much pressure on myself academically was never one of the things that kept my mother up at night. Not once did I cause her to break into a cold sweat at the thought of her my obsessive study habits.
Still, personal experiences aside, school pressure does seem to be a legitimate cause for concern. On a 2007 survey, teens ranked it first on a list of reasons they've used drugs and alcohol, out-scoring other popular responses such as "to feel cool" and "to feel better about myself."