Forum to focus on teens in transition

When teenagers move from middle school to high school, they encounter new social and academic pressures that prove to be challenging — to the students, but also to parents.

With studies suggesting that the teenage brain undergoes rapid development in the areas of planning, reasoning and impulse control, parents understandably want to help guide their child through those transitional years.

During this time, parents can be models of moderation, relationships, and good decision making, but they also need to start letting go, said San Francisco counselor Jeffrey Leiken, who tours nationally giving talks and trainings on youth-related issues.

“Life becomes more complex for many kids at this age,” said Leiken, who is speaking at James Lick Middle School tonight. “There’s the obvious stuff, relationships with the opposite sex, the pressure to have sex or take drugs … then there’s this urgency about how well they do in school and how it will affect the rest of their life.”

Although parents may tryto protect their child from negative experiences or influences, teenagers need to learn to sort through their thoughts and emotions and be at ease with their decisions, Leiken said.

However, when it comes to technology — cell phones, computers, video games, instant messaging, etc. — Leiken is a strong supporter of parental control, saying technology can actually impede children’s ability to sustain long-term focus.

He suggests parents encourage activities that involve more personal interaction.

Leiken will speak at a forum for middle school parents about transitioning students to high school. Open to the public, the free event will be at James Lick Middle School, 1220 Noe St., Room 22, at 8 p.m.

beslinger@examiner.com

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