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By Hanley Foundation Prevention Specialist Shannon Prieto

Have you ever felt inferior? Blown something out of proportion? Were you engaged in negative self-talk? Parents of teens know that whatever adults can be dramatic about is nothing compared to the catastrophe of teenage life and the angst they feel.

It is not uncommon for teenagers to have distorted thinking patterns.

Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein wrote an article for Psychology Today that lists seven common thoughts that seem to make teenagers feel dreadful:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking – distorted thinking where one believes that we, and our lives, must be perfect 
  2. Jumping to conclusions – the belief that one knows what others are thinking
  3. Negative filtering – focusing on the negative aspects of situations
  4. Catastrophizing – magnifying or minimizing situations or thoughts
  5. Should thinking (aka “shoulding”) – problematic thinking with a list of rules for oneself and others
  6. Negative labeling – thinking of oneself in a negative light
  7. Negative comparisons – comparing oneself to others in a negative way

It is important to understand that while some of these thoughts may appear to be completely unrealistic, it is how the teens are feeling at the time.

They can become affected by more than one, or two, of these distorted thinking patterns.

What do you do if your daughter comes to you with a broken heart and truly believes that her life is over? First, be grateful that your teen is talking to you. After you have finished picking your chin up off the floor from pure shock, listen. Listen without judgment. Do not compare your life to your child’s. Do not merely state that “time will heal all pain.” Let your teen talk. Provide encouraging feedback and a shoulder for crying if necessary.

Maybe it’s not a breakup, but a low test grade, a sports game that was lost, a friend that is becoming distant, or heaven forbid, a pimple. Whatever the issue, negative thought, fear, or feeling, we want to make sure our children can come to us to work it out.

How do we do this? Become the parent you needed when you were their age.

When we decide to become an approachable, trusting, and loving parent, the kind WE wanted when we were younger, our children will become more comfortable talking to us about the hard stuff and negative thoughts they are experiencing. We must be understanding of their circumstances and help them work through the tough times they are undergoing. You may be wondering how to make this happen? Hanley Foundation provides a fantastic parenting workshop that will lead you to become that parent.

For more information on participating in one of our upcoming Active Parenting workshops, please contact Hanley Foundation.