Some of the challenges you could be facing with your ninth-grader include:
• Teenage sex. Like it or not, your teen probably knows people - friends or acquaintances - who are having sex. Perhaps he is, too. Part of the risk and joy of entering high school is making friends with older kids, and that means the chances of him feeling peer pressure to "do it" will increase. Different schools - and different cliques within schools - will have different cultures, and your child may not be among peers who are already having intercourse. But the topic will certainly be on his mind. Wasn't it on yours?
• Academic failure. If she isn't doing well in school, your challenge is to eventually look beyond your first hunches about her lack of self-discipline or unwillingness to hit the books after school. What else is going on in her life? It's possible that her new school environment is more challenging academically or socially than you or she anticipated. Is she preoccupied by some other trouble within your family or among her friends? Is she dating? Are older students giving her a hard time? Is she taking drugs? Is she bored because school isn't challenging enough? Could she have a learning disability? While it could be a simple matter of homework procrastination, you should look into the deeper issues that affect school participation now, while she's still starting out.
• Not eating enough, or eating too much. Anorexia nervosa primarily affects well-educated, relatively affluent teenage girls. It is a psychological condition that becomes frighteningly physical: These girls sometimes literally starve themselves to death. Obesity is another weight-related problem, though it affects about one-quarter of all teenagers in this country. The underlying causes for obesity are overeating, lack of exercise, low physical activity, poor food choices and a predisposition toward gaining weight. Research shows that parents of obese adolescents are often overprotective. Any eating disorder is reason to talk to your child's pediatrician; he or she can recommend the correct course for your family to take.