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Pessimism in Teens

Table of Contents

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Understanding Pessimism in your Teen: The Facts

Optimism and Pessimism

  • Optimism is the tendency to see the good in situations or outcomes. 
  • Pessimism is the tendency to see negatives in situations or outcomes.
  • Research shows optimistic and pessimistic tendencies are about 50% genes and 50% environment.  

Learned Helplessness

Pessimism can be the expression Learned helplessness happens when a person is repeatedly exposed to stressors outside of their control. The person feels powerless and does not attempt to make changes to alter their environment or experience. Learned helplessness can sound like: “My day was bad as usual.” Or “What’s the use, why bother?”Characteristics of learned helplessness include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Low motivation
  • Not asking for help
  • Low expectations of success

2 Ways Parents Can Help reduce Pessimism?

Building Optimism 

  • Tiered mastery opportunities: Examples include playing an instrument, learning a language, discovering a new hobby. 
  • Relying on strengths: What does the teen do well? How can they continue to build on that talent or skill?
  • Encouragement/praise for positive outcomes: Notice when things go well and call it out 

Be A Role Model 

  • All humans learn from observing, modeling, and imitating behavior. Parents, guardians, and friends are a teen’s closest models. If you want your teen to build optimism and unlearn pessimism, you must demonstrate and practice optimism yourself. Additionally, you must immerse your teen in prosocial environments. 
  • Prosocial behavior is positive, constructive, helpful. It is the opposite of antisocial behavior or pessimism. 
  • Prosocial environments are conducive to our values and goals. 

The MyTeenLifeCoach Approach

Expand Awareness about facts and myths of pessimism

Investigate: What is happening in the teen’s environment that may create pessimism? This includes school, parents, life events, and mental and physical health.

Explore: Walk the teen through their thought process.

  • Situation -> thought -> emotion -> behavior  
  • Notice the pessimism. Where does it occur? How does it feel? 
  • Where could they change their approach to facilitate more positive behavior or outcomes? 

Build Tools to protect from pessimism

When negative feelings or pessimism arises, three helpful tools to help teens cope include:

Distract: Feeling overwhelmed? Stop, take a break, and get out of your head. Do something to distract yourself from your thoughts. Take a walk, feed the dog, go to the gym, read a book, take a shower, etc.  

Dispute: Challenge the negative belief. Is this true, or is it a story? If it’s a story – how can you rewrite it?

Distance: Put distance between you and your thoughts. Beliefs are just beliefs – it doesn’t make them true. You are not your thoughts, and you are not your emotions.  You are good and whole inside even when you don’t feel good. 

  • Tiered mastery opportunities: Examples include playing an instrument, learning a language, discovering a new hobby. 
  • Relying on strengths: What does the teen do well? How can they continue to build on that talent or skill?
  • Encouragement/praise for positive outcomes: Notice when things go well and call it out 

Sources: https://www.psychologytoday.com

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Learned helplessness happens when a person is repeatedly exposed to stressors outside of their control. The person feels powerless and does not attempt to make changes to alter their environment or experience. Learned helplessness can sound like: “My day was bad as usual.” Or “What’s the use, why bother?”Characteristics of learned helplessness include:
On Key

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Teen High Risk Behavior

High-risk refers to severe multiple risk factors with few protective factors to mitigate adverse outcomes. It encompasses behaviors that can result in adverse consequences that outweigh the potential gains and may delay or harm adolescent development.

During the process of growing from a child to adult, adolescents may make choices that could put their health and wellbeing at risk.

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Pessimism in Teens

Learned helplessness happens when a person is repeatedly exposed to stressors outside of their control. The person feels powerless and does not attempt to make changes to alter their environment or experience. Learned helplessness can sound like: “My day was bad as usual.” Or “What’s the use, why bother?”Characteristics of learned helplessness include:

Are you procrastinating?

“I want to finish my homework and go to bed, but before I know it, I was scrolling on my phone for 2 hours.” Follow these tips: 1. Ask: What is the benefit of my procrastinating? (eg. I can scroll) 2. Ask: What does procrastination cost you? (e.g., I want to sleep, but because I procrastinated, I have to stay up late to finish my homework.) 3. Do: Break it down into little tasks. What’s the first thing you need to do to get started? (Sharpen pencils. 1 page/problem at a time.) 4. Do: Plan for the distractors that may come up when you are working – before you start the work. (eg. My phone is a distraction, so I will leave it in the kitchen while I do my homework in my room.)

To focus on Procrastination and Get Help

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