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 and privileged 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 – and the resulting parental pressure – can also be a burden to some kids. Learn more about “Family & Money“.
Privileged Children & Pressure To Succeed
I frequently recommend parents read The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine Ph.D.
I find that many teens who grow up with successful parents or who are privileged, unfortunately, suffer from anxiety. It’s a high price to pay for kids who are still sorting out their place in the world. 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 from anxiety over these issues. Yet, the parent’s financial accomplishments can create stress, pressure, and anxiety on their kids. While this parental pressure may not be intended, it exists – and does come at a cost to your teen’s happiness and self-confidence.
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. Very often in this culture of affluence, they are also given whatever resources are 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 of privilege 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 across many 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? How can you recognize, and lessen, the impact of parental pressure? 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 privileged kids who worry, “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
- Listen to your child: It’s important to listen to your child and validate their feelings. Encourage them to talk about their worries and fears, and offer support and reassurance.
- Teach relaxation techniques: Teach your child relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization. These techniques can help them feel calmer and more in control of their anxiety.
- Encourage exercise: Exercise is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress. Encourage your child to participate in physical activities they enjoy, like sports or dance.
- Create a calming environment: Create a calm and soothing environment at home. Use soft lighting, play relaxing music, and limit screen time before bedtime.
- Seek professional help: If your child’s anxiety is affecting their daily life, consider seeking professional help. A mental health professional can provide strategies and tools to help your child manage their 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 anxiety stemming from the price of privilege 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 them know it’s okay to enjoy relaxing.
2. Be aware of what you are saying at home that could heighten your teen’s 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, privileged 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 a 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 of exposing your child to a culture of affluence 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.
Financial success can have both positive and negative consequences on children. Here are some of the potential effects:
Improved quality of life: Financial success can provide children with access to better healthcare, education, and other resources that can improve their overall quality of life.
Greater opportunities: Financial success can give children more opportunities to pursue their interests and passions, such as extracurricular activities or travel.
Financial stability: Growing up in a financially stable household can provide children with a sense of security and stability, which can contribute to their overall well-being.
Positive role models: If parents model responsible financial behavior, children are more likely to develop healthy financial habits themselves.
Entitlement: Children who grow up with financial privilege may develop a sense of entitlement and believe that they are entitled to certain things simply because they have money.
Lack of motivation: Financial success can sometimes lead to complacency, and children may not feel as motivated to work hard or pursue their goals.
Isolation: Children who grow up with a lot of wealth may find it difficult to relate to others who do not have the same financial resources, which can lead to feelings of isolation or disconnection.
Unrealistic expectations: If children grow up with a lot of money, they may have unrealistic expectations about what life should be like, which can lead to disappointment or frustration as they get older.
It’s important for parents to be mindful of both the positive and negative consequences of financial success and to take steps to help their children develop healthy attitudes towards money and success. This might include teaching them the value of hard work, encouraging them to give back to their community, and helping them develop financial literacy skills.
Broaden Your Teen’s Horizons
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.
Encourage collaboration over competition: Help your teen understand that working together with others can often produce better results than working alone. Encourage them to seek out opportunities to collaborate with others, whether it be on school projects or extracurricular activities.
Emphasize the importance of empathy: Help your teen develop empathy by encouraging them to put themselves in other people’s shoes. This can help them see things from a different perspective and develop a greater understanding of others.
Encourage them to try new things: Encourage your teen to step outside of their comfort zone and try new things. This can help broaden their horizons and expose them to new experiences and perspectives.
Teach them to appreciate diversity: Encourage your teen to appreciate and celebrate diversity. This can be done by exposing them to different cultures, traditions, and beliefs, and by teaching them to respect and value differences.
Focus on personal growth and development: Encourage your teen to focus on their personal growth and development rather than always comparing themselves to others. Help them understand that everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and that success is measured in many different ways.
Model non-competitive behavior: Be a role model for your teen by exhibiting non-competitive behavior yourself. Show them that it’s possible to be successful and achieve your goals without always being in competition with others.
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 – parental pressure can affect you too. It is tough because, of course, you want the best for your children – – but don’t make them pay a price that could significantly impact them. 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.
Model happiness: Kids learn best by example, so one of the best ways to teach them about happiness is to model it yourself. Show your child how to be happy by finding joy in everyday moments, being grateful for what you have, and focusing on positive experiences.
Encourage mindfulness: Mindfulness is a practice that helps kids (and adults) focus on the present moment and become more aware of their thoughts and feelings. Encourage your child to practice mindfulness by doing activities like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
Foster positive relationships: Relationships are a key component of happiness. Encourage your child to build positive relationships with family members, friends, and peers. Help them develop strong communication skills, empathy, and respect for others.
Emphasize the importance of self-care: Teach your child the importance of taking care of themselves, both physically and emotionally. Encourage healthy habits like exercise, good nutrition, and getting enough sleep. Also, teach them how to manage stress and practice self-compassion.
Teach them to find joy in non-material things: Help your child understand that happiness is not just about money or possessions. Encourage them to find joy in experiences like spending time with family and friends, being outdoors, or pursuing hobbies and interests.
Start early, learn to say no to your children and teach them about life’s lessons. Also, you can teach your children how to invest and take advantage of your knowledge.