How to Help My High Achieving Teen
Swim team captain. First chair violinist. Quiz bowl champion. Straight A student. Perfectionist. Anxious. Sad. Withdrawn.
Teens who are high academic achievers are often also heavily involved in extracurricular activities and leadership roles. Add a job or volunteer work, lessons, or a college search to that and you may end up with a teen who is overwhelmed. This is often when they end up in therapy. Sometimes clients come into therapy because they are having trouble sleeping or they have started experiencing panic. Others have started using drugs or withdrawn to the point of isolation. Once-happy children have become overachieving teenagers, and the idea of success that once drove them has led them to feel highly anxious.
Parents and other adults can help teens in a few simple ways:
- Support balance in their lives, and make sure to include their social life. Spending time with friends and having a sense of community outside of their home is an important and appropriate part of healthy development for teens.
- Teach them how to manage a heavy load. Help your teen to learn about time management, time away from social media, and prioritizing tasks.
- Dispel the myth of perfectionism. Describing the concept of “good enough” can help them address obsessive thoughts that may lead them to never feeling good enough.
- Give them permission to say no. High achievers are also often over achievers who have never been told that it’s okay to turn down opportunities.
- Model all of those things for your child. There is a strong chance that a child with perfectionism learned by watching. How can you model balance in your own life? Talk to your teen about your own struggles with these steps.
With support and guidance, teens can recognize their inherent value regardless of achievements, grades, and trophies. They will start to see the beauty of mistakes and the value in downtime. Most importantly, they will develop healthy insight and a stronger sense of self-worth.
How have you been successful at helping your teen achieve balance?
Blog post written by Sentier therapist, Sarah Souder Johnson, MEd, LPCC