Dear Your Teen:
Every day after school, my 14-year-old daughter launches into a litany of everything bad that happened that day. It lasts about 15 minutes and feels so negative. Should I be worried?
The short answer is NO. First off, let me explain what’s going on with your daughter. I’m going to guess that by nature your teen daughter is an introvert. Now, when introverts go to school, they are somewhat forced into being extroverts. They need to participate in class, raise their hand, work in groups, socialize in the cafeteria and (in some cases) perform in front of others. This is not an ideal situation for any introvert. So, when they get into the car after school, it’s like their sanctuary. They are safe and can let it all out. Trust me, you aren’t alone.
Understanding Why Teens Can Be Unhappy at School
Now, let’s think about the teen brain at this age. The emotion center is dominant in a 14 year old. That’s why most things are explained with a touch of drama and a lot of emotion. You will also see a lot of exaggerated responses. So, keep this in mind when she is bemoaning something that happened in the hallway before second period math class. However, there are some things that can help the situation for her (and you.) Freshman year is so different from 8th grade. She is probably at a bigger school, with a different culture and a very different class schedule. That’s a lot to deal with. She’s adapting to high school. Adaptability is key for her right now.
Adaptability has everything to do with being prepared for whatever life presents you with each and every day. For many of us, we get caught up in daily routines because they provide comfort. But changes in that routine can be hard to handle. Once this occurs, teens can feel disjointed, and even depressed. Because of that one curveball, the rest of their day can seem ruined. Sound familiar?
How to Combat Negativity
The best way to combat negativity is to help your teen daughter prepare for whatever might come her way. One way to teach adaptability to change is by encouraging her to move outside her comfort zone as often as possible. For starters, encourage her to explore different interests and activities outside school.
The teens I see with the best adaptability skills tend to have one thing in common; they work part-time or volunteer on a consistent basis. Why does this impact adaptability? Because, you must be ready for whatever comes your way when you work or volunteer. You must be responsible, arrive on time and follow directions. You may be answering a phone one day and interacting with customers on the next day. Your teenager will be nervous in the beginning, but with time she will build comfort in the process. This in turn builds confidence and self-esteem. Then she will be ready to handle anything the school day brings and will move on to talking about other things after school.
Dr. Carol Langlois is a trained therapist and author. She hosts the blog Girl Talk w/ Dr Carol.