Good Enough Is Great For Kids
There is a famous quote by psychiatrist D.W. Winnicott: “good-enough”. This phrase is typically used to remind parents that all it takes is “good-enough parenting” to raise a happy and healthy kid. But this may be the perfect message to send to anxious teens as well. Having a B average and playing on the JV tennis team may be “good-enough”. We don’t want our kids thinking they can and should be perfect. We will never be perfect adults or parents either!
As a psychotherapist I am lucky to work with wonderful, engaging adolescents. Many are also highly intelligent and talented. They tell me about their aspirations to win the state title in their sport, have a near perfect GPA and be accepted to a top notch college. Between the teens’ efforts themselves and their parents’ help, many do reach these goals. However, having successful parents can also be a burden to some kids.
The Pressure To Succeed
I frequently recommend parents read The Price of Privilege.
I find that many teens who grow up with successful parents or who are privileged, unfortunately suffer from anxiety. In my practice, mostly made up of adolescents, typically 75% of these teens suffer from anxiety. Almost always the anxiety is about performance, success and a promising future. For these parents who have worked the majority of their lives to build their careers to provide their children with opportunities and a great life the last thing they would want is for their child to suffer with anxiety over these issues. Yet, the parent’s financial accomplishments can create stress, pressure and anxiety on their kids.
An Increase In Teenage Anxiety
In my experience, the parents I work with are not telling their children they have to make perfect grades, be on the best soccer team or attend an Ivy League college. For the most part, they only expect their child to do their best and they will be proud. However, many teens are putting these pressures on themselves.
In my opinion, it is because they are exposed to smart, successful and accomplished adults. So of course they expect themselves to follow a similar path. They are also given resources needed to achieve success at a high level. It could be tutors, private coaching lessons or parents who can spend hours a day helping the child with homework. It is no surprise that teens from these environments have sky high expectations for themselves. Well, with high expectations often comes anxiety and worry over meeting these expectations. What might be surprising is that parents of across economic classes can make their children into Silver Spoon Kids without knowing it.
What Should Parents Do?
So what can parents do about this dilemma? You worked so hard to provide your kids opportunities and a wonderful life. Clearly you’re not going to quit your high paying job and move to a lower income community. However, there are things you can do to help your child who worries “will I measure up?” “Will I be as successful as my parents? Will dad still be proud of me if I don’t go to his Alma Mater?
Ideas To Help Ease Your Kid’s Anxiety
1. Listen carefully to what your teen is saying and observe how he is behaving. Ask yourself if your teen has balance in his life. Is he making time for fun? Or just worrying about grades and success. Many kids who suffer from this anxiety stop making time for fun and enjoyment. He no longer finds interest in going out with friends or binge-watching a TV show. Not many parents are thrilled when their teen spends a whole day or weekend watching TV, but this does indicate he can still enjoy a break and let all of the stress go. Typically, teens who are anxious cannot allow themselves to relax in this way. If a teen is not able to take a break and balance responsibilities with enjoyable activities, parents may need point this out, letting her know it’s okay to enjoy relaxing.
2. Be aware of what you are saying at home that could heighten your teens anxiety, competitiveness and expectations of himself. You may not be talking about what you want your teen to achieve but it may be a theme that comes up around the house more than you realize. Maybe it’s the schools your nephew has been accepted into or how hard it is for young adults to find jobs these days. Even if you’re not talking about your own child, teens are listening and anxious teens can internalize this and believe they should be doing more. Of course parents want to communicate the message about work ethic and doing your best, but balance is key. Maybe a message to communicate is “work hard, play hard”.
Consequences of Financial Success
3. Think carefully about the community you are joining. When you buy a house in an upscale area you’re not just choosing a house, for many they are also choosing the type of people they are surrounded by. Buying a house in an upscale area often means your family will be surrounded by other successful, high achievers. This comes with many advantages, but some drawbacks could include highly competitive public schools and a false sense that everyone is and should be successful. Of course many parents aim to buy as nice of a home in as nice of a community as possible. Conscientious parents will also think ahead to consider the competitive and success oriented culture that comes with many of these communities.
Broaden Your Teen’s Horizon
4. If you do raise your child in a more affluent area, consider exposing your adolescent to a broader variety of experiences and people. This could be through travel or community service in other areas. You can also accomplish this simply through talking about occupations that may be less competitive and achievement oriented but still highly enjoyable.
Happiness, Not Money Or Success
5. Try not to get caught up in the competitive rat-race in your community. When you hear other parents talking about what colleges their teen is applying to TRY not to let it get to you. It is tough because of course you want the best for your children. If your kid is already anxious and competitive in high school, consider encouraging your teen to attend a less competitive college to lower her anxiety level and raise enjoyment.
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- The Price of Privilege: Anxious Teens With High Expectations Of Themselves - September 15, 2016