Is Your Teen TOO Good?

My 16 year old is ALWAYS very well behaved. In fact, she is so well behaved it is worrying me. She never disagrees with her parents. She always does what she is told. She gets A’s on all her exams and never talks in class.

Before you say, “Can I swap children?” I’d like to give you the whole picture. She also struggles to make friends and meet new people. She finds it more difficult than most to leave the house, and she always asks for her parents’ approval before she makes decisions.

For many years her parents thought they had birthed the perfect child.  She was their “good girl”, which meant they praised her ability to make mature decisions and focus on her exams.  But today they are seeing that she has chosen to be good at the expense of her health and happiness. Good can actually become an excuse not to take risks and explore life.

Anxiety is often at the root of extreme compliance and quests for perfection. It doesn’t just affect girls and if it isn’t managed, anxiety can cripple teenagers and block healthy development. For many, it impacts their ability to apply for jobs, enjoy school camps and follow through on their own dreams.

Parents may not know how to respond to anxiety, especially if they haven’t experienced it themselves.  Being armed with knowledge is half the battle when facing anxiety as a family. Simple knowledge can reduce the feelings of frustration and helplessness that parents often feel.

This simple parenting checklist is a great start for families whose teens are experiencing anxiety. It will give you an overview of how to respond to your teenager.

Some action you can take:

  • Do verbally praise risk taking, self expression and creativity as often as possible.
  • Do model and encourage assertiveness.
  • Do help them understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy risks. Help them assess the degree of risk logically.
  • Do deliberately and regularly plan activities which push your teenagers out of their comfort zone.
  • Talk about feelings often and help them be aware of what they are experiencing.  Teenagers who suffer anxiety often find it difficult to find the language to ask for what they need.
  • Do get them some professional support.  Anxiety doesn’t go away in time and that is why it needs to be confronted head on.

Some actions you may want to avoid:

  • Don’t over parent. Stand back.
  • Don’t solve their problems for them.
  • Don’t be their sole source of comfort and relationship. In an attempt to look after your kids it is easy to make your home so comfortable it is all they need.
  • Don’t revolve your life around their anxiety. Make plans and stick to them.
  • Don’t be there the very instant they fall. Give them room to feel failure and pick themselves up again. Don’t rescue them from uncomfortable situations.
  • Don’t get frustrated or angry with their progress. Your emotion will only increase their anxiety.

I am seeing more and more teenagers struggling with anxiety. Many are suffering alone when there is help available. If you know a teenagers who needs support, Youth Excel can offer professional psychology, counselling and mentoring which will make a difference. You can contact us on michelle@youthexcel.com.au to enquire anytime.

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