I read the recent Time magazine article asking if we push our students too hard and whether we are preparing them for success or overloading them with stress. I agree we are pushing our students too hard, but if we are to send our children to the schools here that is what's required. How do we balance this? Jaime Simpson, of Teen Success, responds: Eighty to 90 per cent of the questions I receive from teens relate to the pressure they face from parents to achieve and how this causes so much stress in the home and how they struggle at school to get the grades that their parents want. So this issue affects both the teenagers and parents. The teens are also concerned about this topic and are wondering how to handle the pressure. It should be of concern that many parents in Hong Kong spend lots of money on extra-curricular activities that all deal with a child's scholastic and cognitive abilities while the emotional, psychological and social health of children are often overlooked. For parents, the main key to balance is simply a reminder that your child needs both cognitive learning and emotional and relational release. How your child can experience the latter will be determined on their personality. Some love to be involved in sports and team work, others prefer to be alone and to read, others like to shop or spend time on the computer. One child's balance of schedule will not work the same for another. So work out a balance for your child with them, work out a schedule that works best for their uniqueness. I have a 12-year-old boy who is finding it really difficult to make friends at school. He doesn't seem to fit in. He gets teased a lot and I am worried about his self-esteem. I've noticed he is very defensive about anything we ask. Jaime Simpson says: Bullying is unfortunately very common in schools and a big contributor to a child's low self-esteem. It would be good to talk to his year adviser or school counsellor to find out what may be happening in the school. Often it is not just one youth who is finding it difficult to fit in. When building your child's self-esteem, it is important not to focus on his accomplishments as much as you focus on the qualities that helped him achieve those accomplishments. For example, if your son comes home from school with good grades do not focus on the grades but focus on the time, the effort, the prioritising of study to pass those exams. The difference is, we are building the child's self-esteem by focusing on the qualities they have and not their accomplishments. Your son then doesn't feel like he needs to achieve something to get thanks but it's the qualities of who he is that you want to encourage. This is the same when you listen to him when he is being defensive. His low self-esteem may be causing this defensiveness. When he comes home from school and he mentions he isn't fitting in, don't focus on the 'not fitting in', focus on his feelings, or his qualities and work on speaking words of affirmation about the way he handles his feelings and the situation.