Let's face it. Teens can be a bit moody and negative at times. While this moodiness and negativity are normal for teens, they can also lead to mental health issues, including depression and chronic anxiety. A recent NPR article discussed how helping teens to reframe these thoughts can help teens avoid facing mental issues now and as they transition into adulthood. There are four steps parents or others who work with teens can take to help prevent these negative thoughts from harming the teens.
Recognize Negative Thoughts
The first key is recognizing negative thoughts. These may include the teen focusing on the negative, even when things are going well overall. The teen may also start to have an attitude that life's not fair or may exaggerate the negative, focusing on the worst-case scenario.
Avoid Squashing the Thought
Often, the natural reaction is to simply try to squash these thoughts, telling the teen something like, “A failing grade on one algebra test won't cause you to fail out of high school” or “One missed soccer goal won’t prevent you from getting an athletic scholarship.” These thoughts may feel helpful on the surface, but ultimately, they may just make the teen feel worse.
Guide the Teen Toward Realistic Thoughts
Instead of squashing the teen's negative thinking right away, acknowledge the thought, look at why the teen feels that way, and replace the thought with something more realistic. For example, with the failed algebra test, instead of stressing over the one test, they can study harder for the next test, seek extra help from the teacher, ask a classmate or tutor for help, or leave a social activity early to study for the next test.
Avoid Negativity Yourself
Unfortunately, as adults, we sometimes fall into the trap of negativity. If you find yourself falling into that trap, be the example. Show your teen how you can turn a negative thought into a more realistic one.
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