Parents, Learn How to Help Your Perfectionist Teenager
The teenage years are hard enough for both teenagers and parents with all the hormones and battles over boundaries without your child suffering from other issues. If you have a perfectionist teenager, it can be difficult to know how to help, but it is important that you do. Parent, learn how to help your perfectionist teenager.
Perfectionism is an innate drive to never make a mistake and to excel at everything you do. While you might think this could be a good thing on the surface, it becomes unhealthy and debilitating when your teenager is so afraid of failing that they stop trying new things altogether, affecting both schoolwork and favorite hobbies and after school activities.
Most likely your teen had perfectionist tendencies even as a child, but now in their teenage years it seems to be getting worse, causing them to feel anxious and depressed. A perfectionist teenager may even appear defiant and rebellious to you when inside they are feeling scared and anxious.
Here are some ways you as their parent can help:
Share Some of Your Mistakes with Them
Your teenager needs to know that mistakes are a natural part of life. That it is how we learn and grow. A good way of doing that is to share some of your own mistakes with them. Tell them what went wrong, how you handled it and what you learned from it. Reassure them that no one is going to look at them differently because they made a mistake.
Encourage Them to Challenge Themselves
If your teenager wants to stop an activity that they always loved and excelled in all of sudden, it could be because their fear of failure is paralyzing them. Find out what is going on. Maybe they are trying to learn a tricky dance move or are getting ready to perform their first solo and they think it is better to quit than to fail. If that seems to be the case, then encourage them to keep at it. To see the new challenges they are facing exciting instead of scary.
Don’t let fear be the reason they quit something they love. Teach them that with practice and hard work they can achieve their goals. On the flip side though, if they have outgrown an activity and would rather be doing something else, then not allowing them to quit in this case would be bad. Putting your own expectations on your teenager could also cause them anxiety and depression. It is so important to get to the heart of what is going on with your child.
Teach Your Teenager How to Lose Gracefully
Losing at something never feels good and it can be that much harder for a perfectionist. Try to encourage gracious losing by playing games often with your teen and show how you can still have fun even if you don’t win.
Be Clear on Your Expectations and Be Consistent
To help relieve some of your teenagers’ worries, always be clear on your expectations for them, whether it be schoolwork, activities or chores around the house. Always be consistent in your expectations as well so they are not worrying about upsetting you or letting you down.
Bring Some Laughter into Their Lives
As the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine so laugh together with your teen. Be silly together and teach them not to take themselves so serious all the time. Chase each other around with a water gun in the summer time or have a pillow fight while watching television together. We all need those lighthearted moments in our day and having them together will bring you and your teen closer together.
Share Your Own Struggles with Perfectionism
Perfectionism unfortunately doesn’t fall far from the tree so you or your partner most likely are a perfectionist as well. Share your own struggles with perfectionism with your teen so he or she knows they are not alone. Talk about the coping mechanism you use and how they might help your teen as well.
Be Spontaneous Together
Perfectionists thrive on routine, but your teen also needs how to adjust when unexpected schedule changes occur. To help them, occasionally do spontaneous things together. Treat it like a special treat, as something to enjoy rather than something to melt down over. It will help them roll with the punches a little better.
Show Them How to Set and Meet Goals
Setting and meeting goals is something even adults struggle with, but it is an important skill. If your teen is trying to learn a new skill or is working on a big project, show them how to break down all the to-do’s into manageable daily goals.
Make Sure They Are Getting Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep isn’t good for any of us. Teens especially need a solid 8 or 9 hours of sleep but often they don’t get it because they are staying up late to do homework or outside activities. Give them a hard line for when they need to be in bed and help take certain things off their plate to get them there on time. For instance let their chores slide if they need to study for a big exam. Downtime for relaxing and family bonding is also important. Set times for family dinners and family movies etc. which are relaxing and bonding times you can enjoy together.
Get Professional Help If Needed
If your teenager seems to be struggling with anxiety and depression, it also a good idea to get him or her evaluated by a mental health professional. A therapist or psychologist will be able to uncover if there are deeper issues at play.
The teenage years are tough so it is important that you as the parent are very engaged in your child’s life so you can help guide them through all the turbulence. Perfectionist teenagers are especially at risk for anxiety and depression so don’t ignore any symptoms you see. Don’t be afraid to seek help yourself if you are feeling overwhelmed.