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The 3 Things Your Teen Fears Most

What your teens fear most is quite different from what may keep you awake at night. Most parents’ worries are theoretical and future-based — fear for their teens’ safety at school and their ability to compete in an increasingly tough world, college applications and their kid getting a job.  Teens, in contrast, fear what is already directly in front of them. While social media stretches their global perspective, what’s on their minds most is narrower than what you might think.

Dr. Kevin Leman believes that three innate fears drive teen reactions. He also believes there are antidotes to each of those fears that only you can provide.  When you know those fears and what your teens need most from you, you can provide what’s already within your control — lasting antidotes to help them power through and develop resilience.  Let’s get to it!

Fear No.1: REJECTION
Who doesn’t want to be liked and accepted? But with teens, this craving trumps all else. Worse, in the peer jungle, liking is based on who’s highest on the food chain for the day, so rejection is hard to escape. I’ve had many clients who’ve been ditched by a best friend then refuse to leave the house for days because they were so crushed.   I’ve had others who lived and breathed sports only to get cut from a team then want to quit everything and change schools.  Not exactly demonstrating resilience.  Here’s the rejection antidote… unconditional love and acceptance at home.  Since rejection is part of life, learning how to handle it positively is critical. If your teens end up in the dirt of the peer heap or fail to make a team or club, listen, empathize, and then offer perspective. Do not judge their feelings or compare them to your own.  With this kind of love and support your teens can learn to take rejection in stride and become resilient.

Fear No. 2 UNCERTAINTY
Your teens may act like nothing bothers them, but they worry constantly. Ever-present on their minds is the survival-of-the-fittest peer environment in which even those on the highest rock can be dethroned at any moment. That makes their world outside your nest rocky, but throw in uncertainty at home — like a parent who has unpredictable work schedules or whose parents are getting divorced — and the uncertainty can be paralyzing.  The uncertainty antidote… stability at home.  When your teens arrive home, they need a safe, calm atmosphere where they can sort out their thoughts and the events that threw them a curveball that day. You are the constant in their rapidly evolving universe. They need to know you’re there, not leaving, will accept them and that they are a priority over your work.  And remember, role-modeling unchanging character, priorities, and most of all, a rock-solid presence guarantees a foundation stronger than any uncertainty your teens face.

Fear No. 3 BEING THE TARGET
Fear can reign in competitive or vicious peer groups. Anything “different” about your teens, including clothes, “loner” status or the simple fact they’re breathing next to an insecure guy who needs to ensure he’s top dog, paints a big target on their backs. With the ease of spreading rumors on a smartphone, it’s not just face-to-face bully encounters anymore. Social media’s anonymity and few , if any consequences mean anyone can say anything about anyone at any time and share it at the press of a button, and it’ll remain indefinitely in the electronic universe and your teens are acutely aware of this, all the time.  The antidote… is a balanced perspective and a “we’re in this together” guarantee. Bad things do happen, and people can be so mean sometimes.  Both are facts of life, so it’s better to prepare your teens before it happens, if possible. Share a time when you were targeted. Point out that many bullies behave as they do because they’re insecure, and taking someone down makes them feel temporarily important. Knowing that truth and knowing you have their back removes some of the sting.

Every time your teens step out your door, that trio of fears hangs heavily over them. Is it any surprise, then, that they sometimes react to that high stress by picking on a sibling or even you? But when you understand what’s really going on behind the attitude-of-the-moment, you can provide support for their daily trek into the teen jungle.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith