Perfect teens can't fly -- they only let themselves down. However, the sky is the limit for those who are happy and healthy, without a care in the world. Even during these complex times, it's still very simple for most teenagers to find a sense of inner peace and tranquility. While adolescents are anything but airheads, they're highly impressionable, and frequently react as if their heart had wings. Unfortunately, this may weaken their ability to resist temptation, and to avoid risky behaviors.
    Dying to be Perfect: How Teens Can Stay Happy, Healthy and Alive will serve as a quick reality check for teenagers and parents who are living in a dream world of unrealistic expectations and perfectionist thinking. More than just a survival guide, this book will raise a call to arms for combating the powerful societal pressures that threaten the health and well-being of young people today.
    Adolescence is the period of time during which a child becomes an adult. It involves revolutionary physical, mental, and emotional growth and change.
    The physical changes of puberty begin with the development of secondary sexual characteristics. In boys these are the growth of facial and pubic hair, and the ability to ejaculate (have an orgasm). In girls they are the growth of breasts and pubic hair, and the beginning of their menstrual cycle (period). Puberty is complete for both boys and girls when they are able to create a child.
    It is often not fully appreciated that the brains of young adults are also going through dramatic changes, just like the physical changes in their bodies. As with puberty, the maturing of the adolescent mind can be divided into three stages -- early, middle, and late -- each of which is quite different from the other. Teenagers should not be expected to think like adults until this process of development is complete. It must be expected that adolescents will respond to the pressures of daily living in a unique and personal way, which is highly influenced by the stage of mental growth they have reached.
    When children begin adolescence, their minds are usually capable only of concrete thinking. This means they think completely in the here and now. For example, those with sensitive skin know that if they stay out in the sun too long they will burn or blister —- they can see it and feel it right away. That's real to them; that's concrete. However, they are unlikely to grasp the concept that sun damage over a period of years may lead to skin cancer; they can't think that far into the future.
    Eventually, adolescents grow from concrete thinking to abstract thinking. Abstract thinking is the ability to look ahead in a logical way. You can imagine what situations are like, even if you haven't experienced them. Adults are capable of abstract thinking, and achieving it is one of the goals of adolescence. An example of abstract thinking would be the ability to understand the association between excessive sun exposure during adolescence and skin cancer later in life.
    Dying to be Perfect: How Teens Can Stay Happy, Healthy and Alive will take you on an imaginary voyage into the mind of the adolescent, and provide unusual insight into what teenagers are thinking, when they are most likely to be thinking it, and why they think the way they do. This book will compare the early, mid, and late stages of adolescent mental growth to the three stages of a space flight, and teach readers how to develop survival skills to overcome social pressures during the launch, orbit, and reentry into adulthood.
    The flight plan will include a checklist I created, to help teenagers and their families figure out where they stand, and what to expect with each passing phase. The mission will be to bring the young voyagers back safely, as happy, healthy adults, from their trek into outer space. I have used this scenario in my practice for many years, and have found it to be a very effective way to explain Mother Nature's expectations as well as modern society's demands for growing up today.
    Each chapter of this book is filled with practical suggestions and tips, which follow in order as the story line unfolds. A number of moving, real-life adolescent case histories are also included, to add to the human-interest element of the book. The symbolic journey is written in a humorous tone to discuss serious problems in down-to-earth, everyday language, which teenagers and their parents can easily relate to.
    The space flight comparison is very appropriate because adolescents and astronauts share so much in common. This includes the need for keeping open channels of communication and staying connected to the home base as the best chance for completing their mission successfully. They must also be able to take the right safety precautions, to keep the risks and dangers as low as possible.