Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Half Full or Half Empty?

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Sometimes I think the hardest "issues" to handle as a parent are the issues that reflect different ways of just being in the world. I am a serious optimist and see everything as an opportunity and an experience to be had. One of my daughters approaches the world very tentatively and does not like risking failure - ever.

I have struggled for years to get her to try things, not back away if there is a chance of failure, but be open to new experiences. As a little girl she stopped basketball after one season because she could not play like Magic Johnson, same with hockey, and assorted other potential passions. One year she practiced a routine for weeks only to not audition for a talent show at the very last minute - since she "might not get in," but ended up in the show thanks to a very understanding director. She has never done a play at school that required an audition, and like her sister, when team sports become competitive and require tryouts, that was the end of that.

Being an optimist, I thought that as she got older, she was moving past making decisions to avoid potential failure or based on fears about "what might happen," and yet, before coffee this morning she lands "I do not think I will do upper school soccer - it will take too much time and I will not have enough free time." This decision comes after stopping all other activities to avoid being too busy, taking private coaching lessons to feel confident about her skills, and completing the physical with her doctor, etc....

Carumba! I could tell she had been stewing over this decision over and that I was going to be the enemy! We talked about how prepared she has been to try it this year, how much she loves soccer when she is playing it, how much potential others see in her, how short the season is, and of course, the fact that she can always drop it, and sure enough, she will go sign up today, but it was tough! Helping kids approach life as an experience and trust that a failure will not hurt them, their future, or their self-esteem is a very difficult parenting task!

Every child should experience a little failure so they realize they can dust themselves and move on, but for kids who like to be perfect, it is a tough sell! We shall see how this one unfolds!

Give your teens a hug today!
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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