A teen’s mood or thoughts often stem from assumptions they make about themselves, their environment, or their unknown future. This can directly impact disposition and personality. As adults, we know this firsthand. Our thinking impacts our state of mind, significantly. In addition, if we assume the worst our mind and body react as if the ideas are true. This can take a negative toll on a teen’s emotional and physical health. Learning to challenge and redirect negative thoughts and moods take time and practice, but it’s well worth the effort. When teens realize that negativity and worrying is the problem, not the solution, they can regain control of their mind and mood.

Teens and Positivity

Studies show that a positive attitude is a potent precursor and indicator of overall mental well-being and optimism. We know that optimism tends to influence behaviors in adolescents and generally lead to better lifestyle choices. But how do we cultivate positivity in one of the most difficult populations—rebellious teens? We asked our Clinical Director to share her wisdom on the subject.

“Parents can help teens cultivate positivity by creating connection and letting them know that figuring out who they are — with all of the ups and downs that the process may bring — is normal and healthy. When we are open as teens ‘try out’ different versions of themselves (within the boundaries we’ve created to keep them safe), we tell them it is OK to fall and get back up again. What’s more, through this acceptance we teach them that falling is a part of standing strong. Notions of “failure” are an instrumental part of success. While we can’t control the identity, a teen chooses what’s most important is to support the process of gaining a consistent sense of self. Young people who feel secure and can say, ‘This is who I am!’ with confidence will have a strong, grounded sense of self as they make increasingly complex and impactful decisions going forward. This is the foundation for optimism,” says Susan Ferren, MA, LMFT, Clinical Director at SCAW who has spent years developing skills regarding how to help teens create optimism.

Our team has a lot of experience in this area and we assembled some tips to guide positivity practices that will help inspire loved ones.

How to Cultivate Positivity

  1. Create Connection. This is number one. When we are connected and feel safe attachment with loved ones, we can share our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. In addition, this connection provides the fertile ground for supportive parenting, when needed. The idea is to cultivate and sustain the connection. Be open and honest, and age appropriate, of course. You don’t have to share every gruesome detail of your teen years, but you can definitely empathize and share your experiences from a place of compassion.
  2. Encourage Growth. When we know we can fall and get back up, we are in more of a growth mindset. Hence, this encourages us to try new things, willing to not be “perfect” at whatever we do.
  3. Model Behavior. It’s important to remember our kids often mimic what they see. This is more so the case when they’re tweens and in the early teen years but they are taking it all in. Even if kids act like they want nothing to do with you (and they will!) they are observing and mirroring perceptions and behaviors. The key takeaway here is practice what you preach. If you’re asking kids to be positive, you need to model this. If you’re asking them to put their phones down at the dinner table, you have to do it too! Healthy boundaries are learned not just by what we say but what we do.
  4. Point Out the Good Stuff. It can seem simple but highlighting the positive things others do means a lot. We don’t need gold stars for every little task but just acknowledging someone else goes a really long way in supporting positive feelings.