Say ‘yes’ to managing teen negativity
Parents have been quite positive about asking me questions regarding their teen’s negativity — so let me say yes to providing some guidance on this topic.
Negativity may be a way for your teen to manage their concerns or stresses, especially during these challenging times of the pandemic. By being negative or complaining to you, a teen may feel better because they are venting their fears and worries. Here are some ways to manage your teen’s moods and keep smiling.
¯ Don’t let your teenager’s negative mood make your mood negative as well. If you don’t react to their negativity with your own negativity, your teen will likely move on more quickly to overcome the problem. For example, if they complain about your cooking, don’t tell them they complain about everything. Instead, don’t take it personally and say nothing or simply say, “I’m sorry you don’t like it” and move on.
¯ Try to identify the pattern of your teen’s negative moods. Are they mostly in the morning or after school? Perhaps your teen tends to turn negative at times when what they really want is your attention?and by being negative they think they can get it. Stay positive at those times and focus on giving your teen even more attention when they are not negative, and your teen may be better able to moderate those negative moods. Having them express their thoughts, both positive and negative, in a journal can also help.
¯ Offer some activities that can distract, relieve or calm your teen’s negative mood, rather than ask them to abruptly develop a cheerful disposition. You can offer one of two options to choose from to get them out of that mood, and if they don’t pick one, then go about your business and end the discussion. If they do choose an option you have offered, then help them get into that activity and praise them for finding a way to channel that negative energy.
¯ Remember: you are not responsible for the choices your teenager makes about being negative versus positive, but you are responsible for how you respond to the negativity?and my advice is don’t go to the same negative place your teen is hoping you will go to with them.
Hopefully, tips like these will not be ones to complain about when you want to channel your teen’s negativity into more positive actions and conversations.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital of Vermont Children’s Hospital and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.