Let's get those grades up

Parents get failing grades from teens

When it comes to talking to teens and tackling important life issues, Eddie Bland, 14, thinks most adults miss the mark.

"The majority of [adults] are failing kids," says the Chicago teen. "They need to improve."

Bland isn't the only kid who feels this way. According to the eighth annual Teen Report Card, a survey of 1,000 Americans ages 12 to 19 conducted by the Chicago-based Uhlich Children's Advantage Network, adults' "grades" have dropped in nine of 24 "life subject" categories, including being honest, combating racism and prejudice, running the government and leading by example.

"This year's survey indicates that we as adults have a lot of work to do," says Claude Robinson, vice president of youth development for Uhlich Children's Advantage Network, a child welfare agency. "We haven't been paying close enough attention to America's teenagers."

The report card certainly suggests America's teenagers have been paying close attention to adults. This year's report card shows kids are particularly concerned with the decline in leadership from adults. Other areas where parents' grades dropped include listening and understanding young people and spending quality time with family.

Adults managed to improve in two categories-understanding why teens leave home and helping young people to cope with depression and anxiety. In 13 other areas, grades either remained the same or, for lack of data, could not be compared to the 2005 survey.

So what do parents have to do to bring their grades up? Make ourselves more approachable, share opinions, trust kids and be more accepting if kids are looking to improve, the teens said in focus groups sponsored by Uhlich.

Robinson also says parents should review the Teen Report Card with their own children, and use the discussion sheet provided at Uhlich's Web site, www.ucanchicago.org/advocacy/report_card.html, to get the feedback they need.

Bland, who went over the report with his mom, also has some suggestions: "Sit down and talk to your kids. I mean a real talk-not a lecture. Don't just tell us not to do something. Tell us why."

He adds, "The talk is only going to last an hour. But it's going to have an affect on the rest of your life."

Teresa Dankowski


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