Therapy Blog for Orem, Spanish Fork & South Jordan

Therapy for Teens: How to Respond to Negative Self-Talk

Therapy for Teens: How to Respond to Your Child’s Negative Self-Talk

Maybe you are reading this because you aren’t sure if you should seek therapy for your teen’s negative self-talk. Or maybe your teen is acting differently lately and seems more negative about their appearance or grades.

Negativity can be somewhat normal when it comes to your teen’s behavior. But you can help! Today, you will learn about a productive way to respond to your teen’s negativity. (Related article: Parenting- It’s Not What You Think). You will also learn how

teen therapy

therapy can help. 

Negativity and Teens   

If you are a parent to a teen, you’ve probably noticed that a certain amount of negativity is expected. This is a common experience for many teens because they tend to think in black and white terms. Your teen’s brain is still developing. Because your child’s cognition is still a work in progress, they tend to fall into thinking in extremes. (Source). You’ve probably heard your teen say at least one of the following:

“I suck at this! I will never be good at math.”

“That girl at school hates me.”

“I look terrible.”

There are many more examples I could list, and you have probably even thought of your own! As an adult parent, these comments from your teen can be exhausting. You might struggle to know how to respond. Your own cognition, as an adult, is different; adults are more capable of thinking with nuance. That means you can see the “gray” in situations where your teen may not- and can not, in some cases. (Related Article: Parenting Adolescents 101). 

How to Respond to Negativity

First, let’s talk about how you can respond to these negative comments from your in the moment. What do you do? Do you correct them? Do you nod and go along with it?

teen therapy

The answer is somewhere in between. When your teen makes these negative comments, a great first step is to listen and validate their concerns. Now, that doesn’t mean that you validate their negativity, since the negativity in these comments is usually pretty extreme. Instead, you can try to see where they are really concerned. 

Validate Your Teen’s Experience

For example, let’s look at one of the examples I mentioned earlier- “I suck at this! I will never be good at math”. If your child is trying something new, it’s totally normal to be frustrated while they are learning (and sometimes failing along the way).

Look for the emotion they are experiencing. In this case, your teen is frustrated by the difficulties they are experiencing with this challenging math class. And that’s what you can validate. (Related article: How to Empower and Validate Your Adolescent Child).

For instance, you might respond, “I see how frustrated you are. It can be really hard to try new things, and I am proud of you for working so hard at this! I see how much you are doing to try to succeed.” 

Notice you didn’t say “you are great at this! It will all work out and you will get an A.” That response might set your child up for disappointment when things don’t work out. Putting the focus on the emotion they are experiencing validates them without setting an unrealistic expectation.

Look For Realistic Solutions

Next, you can help your teen problem solve and find realistic solutions to their current frustration. Going along with our last example, you start with validation, and then move into a realistic solution, “I know you are getting frustrated with your math class. It’s probably going to be hard at first. It’s normal to have some struggles in the beginning, and I am so sorry you are frustrated. Can I help with your homework? Would you like me to help you find a tutor?”

teen therapy

Your teen’s logic and reasoning are still growing and developing. As an adult, you can help your teen with compassion and concern, but also offer realistic solutions to their difficulties, which helps take the negativity off of your teen and onto the situation itself. (Related article: Emotions 101).

Therapy Can Help Your Teen Be More Positive

If you have noticed that your teen tends to have a lot of negative self-talk, or they can’t overcome their negativity on their own, therapy can help. Individual therapy can help your teen build confidence and learn problem solving skills they can apply when they find themselves falling into negativity. As a parent, you can also seek help in therapy to understand the best way to respond to your teen and help build their self-esteem. If you’re ready to find help for you or your teen, make an appointment for individual therapy today in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork. 


Written by Lauren Adkins

Lauren Adkins

Writer for the Center for Couples and Families


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