Do you have a high achieving teen? Awesome! It’s so nice for those of you who parent teenagers that compulsively do all their homework, keep up in sports or other extra-curricular activities, and generally try to do the right thing.
These are also usually the kids who have a touch more anxiety than their peers. Sometimes they have quite a bit more anxiety. Teaching them to be content (but not complacent) is a tough task.
Contentedness means having gratitude for the gifts God has given you. It means being thankful for the body you have, your status in life, the family you have, and the friends you’ve made. It means knowing where you are naturally more talented, and not being mired in disappointment over the areas where you’re not. If you are a great athlete, but struggle in school, you embrace this. It doesn’t mean you quit trying in school, it just means you accept that it’s tough for you. It means you seek extra help when needed. It also means you don’t resent people that find school easy.
For the parent of a high achiever, you have a huge challenge. If your adolescent is the “typical” high achiever, then he or she expects to be the best at everything. Your son expects to be the best athlete, student, more popular, etc. Your daughter expects to be in the best shape, get accepted to the best college, and have straight A’s. Anything less causes your teenager to feel inadequate and frustrated.
Help your teen know their strengths. Help them develop those strengths. Help your teen accept natural weaknesses. Teach your teen over and over again that most people are good at a few things, bad at a few things, and average at everything else. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.
When I see teenage clients in therapy who are struggling with anxiety, the first thing I assess is how well they are functioning in life. If they are accomplishing a lot, but still not happy, we begin to work on gratitude and contentment. I use the counseling process to help them continue to cultivate their drive for success, but with a different motive. Instead of comparing to others and then feeling less than, I want the teen to appreciate their exceptional abilities, average abilities and weaknesses.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT