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Is Your Anxious Teen Stuck in a Negative Mindset? 5 Ways that Parents CAN help!

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The Root of Negativity

When your teen expresses constant negativity, it is a sign that they are struggling internally. This negativity is an outward expression of their dissatisfaction or unhappiness, which prevents them from seeing the world in a positive light. It could stem from personal insecurities, anxiety, a sense of injustice, or the overwhelming pressures of adolescence. It's important to remember that your teen doesn't want to be negative; they are using it as a coping mechanism to protect themselves from criticism, judgement, and discomfort.

The Science Behind Negative Thinking

Our brains are wired to focus on negative thoughts and look for threats. We tend to latch onto thoughts with the most energy, which are often the negative ones. This negativity bias is a survival mechanism that helps us protect ourselves. Additionally, our brains have a tendency to repeat thoughts that we've had before, even if they are negative. This repetition reinforces our beliefs, such as "I'm not good enough" or "I'm a failure." These beliefs then shape how your teen perceives themselves and the world around them.

Five Ways to Help Your Teen to happier, healthier thoughts

  1. Model positivity: As a parent, it's crucial to model a positive outlook. Show your teen that it's okay not to be perfect and that mistakes are opportunities for growth. By adopting a more positive mindset yourself, you can naturally influence your teen to lean towards optimism and resilience.

  2. Accept imperfections: Help your teen accept their imperfections and celebrate their strengths. Encourage them to embrace their differences and recognise that everyone has areas where they excel and areas where they struggle. By accepting themselves, they can develop a healthier self-image.

  3. Validate emotions: Create a safe space for your teen to express their emotions without judgement or dismissal. Encourage them to communicate how they're feeling and validate their emotions. All feelings are natural and can teach us something valuable.

  4. Embrace mistakes: Teach your teen that mistakes are a part of life and learning. Be okay with their mistakes and check your own expectations of them. By embracing mistakes, your teen will feel less pressure to be perfect and more motivated to learn and grow.

  5. Recognise automatic thoughts: Help your teen become aware of their automatic negative thoughts. Encourage them to notice when they're being self-critical or pessimistic. By bringing these thoughts into their conscious awareness, they can reframe them and adopt more positive and realistic perspectives.

The Power of Reframing

Beliefs are just thoughts that we keep on thinking. By reframing negative thoughts, your teen can change their beliefs and outlook on life. Encourage them to reframe "I can't" to "I find this hard, but I can try." Help them see that failures and mistakes are not signs of weakness but opportunities for growth. By practicing reframing, your teen can gradually shift their mindset and develop a more positive outlook.

The Role of the Body

Dealing with negativity isn't just about cognitive reframing; it also involves addressing the physical sensations that accompany negative thoughts. Our bodies react to negative thoughts with physical sensations like tension, knots in the stomach, or a racing heart. Breathing exercises can help your teen process these physical sensations and soothe their body. By acknowledging and accepting these sensations, your teen can learn to be more comfortable with discomfort.

Practice Makes Progress

Help your teen practice these techniques consistently. Encourage them to journal, meditate, or engage in open discussions about their thoughts and emotions. Praise their curiosity, perseverance, and progress, no matter how small. Remember, it's not about fixing their negativity; it's about reshaping it and helping them feel okay about the ups and downs of life.

Conclusion and Future Outlook

Dealing with a negative teen can be challenging, but with patience, understanding, and the right strategies, you can help them shift their mindset. By modelling positivity, accepting imperfections, validating emotions, embracing mistakes, and reframing negative thoughts, you can guide your teen towards a more positive outlook. Remember, it's a journey, and progress takes time. With your support, your teen can develop resilience, self-acceptance, and a healthier perspective on life.

What to Do Next?

Join the growing community of parents who are turning the tide on their teen's anxiety! Sign up to the mailing list and become a one in a million mum to receive practical strategies and ongoing support. Together we can do this!

And check out THE podcast for parents of anxious teens - Your Teen, Anxiety and You.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational & educational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice. The use of this information is at the reader's discretion and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a physician, psychotherapist or other qualified professional, diagnosis or treatment.

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