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Why Is My Teen SO Negative? And 5 Ways to Help

Updated: Feb 17

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, general or specific anxiety, a sense of injustice, or the overwhelming pressures of adolescence.

“Your teen doesn’t want to be negative - they are using the negativity as a coping mechanism to protect themselves from criticism, from judgment, from their feelings, and from the discomfort & unease that they are feeling about life”

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The Science Behind Negative Thinking

The human brain is wired to focus on negative thoughts and look for threats. We tend to latch onto thoughts with the most energy, which are most often the negative ones.

This negativity bias is a survival mechanism that helps us protect ourselves.

Additionally, our brains tend 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 which goes on to influence behaviour & outlook.

Unhappy teenage girl sitting on bed deep in thought

5 Ways to Help Your Negative 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.

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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.


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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.

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 mindset.

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.

Smiling teenage boy standing happily in the middle of the school playground


What next?

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**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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