Battling Your Teen's Perfectionism

Updated: Jun 25, 2018

By Angela Dube, LMFT

We all feel the pressure of living in Silicon Valley. As a child therapist in San Jose, I'm well aware that expectations are high, the cost of living is astronomical, and the pressure to keep up is real. It is no surprise that parents are stressed out. It is, however, often surprising that our children are. Our teens, in particular, are battling with a heightened level of stress. They see how life is in Silicon Valley, and they are doing everything in their power to take control of the situation. Their path: taking as many advanced classes as possible, expecting perfect grades, engaging in endless extracurricular activities, all in hopes of landing a spot in an Ivy League university so they can create the most successful and stable future for themselves as possible. The result at best: mild anxiety and some sleep deprivation. The result at worst: burnout, more severe anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts and actions in hopes to end it all. So, what can we do as parents to help our teens avoid this path toward self-destruction?

First, act as positive role models by showing your teen how you let go of your own perfectionism. Talk to your kids about mistakes you’ve made and how you responded to them. Let them know that you are not perfect, nor do you expect them to be perfect. Show them how you make self-care and relationships a priority in your life. And if you’re not there yet, show them that you are trying to battle your own high expectations and shift your priorities because you know your current path is not healthy for you or your family.

Encourage your teens to have balanced lives where they spend time enjoying life and engaging in good self-care. Often sleep is the first sacrifice that is made when feeling stressed. However, sufficient sleep is instrumental in managing mood and maintaining motivation. Make sure your teen is not sacrificing sleep to make deadlines. Encourage him or her to spend time being social with friends or taking an art class just for fun. Don’t put a lot of pressure on being the best, or winning competitions. Show interest in their feelings and their efforts rather than on the end results. Let them know they are valued for who they are as much as for what they accomplish.

Finally, get your teen a therapist if he or she seems to be struggling with stress. Look for warning signs such as sleep deprivation, frequent and intense emotional outbursts, and constant irritability. As much as we are important to our teens, our teens also need to have an outside perspective to help them see their patterns and come to their own conclusions on how to manage feelings and create healthy balance in their lives. Despite the intensity of this valley, we can all benefit to learn how to better balance our lives. Teaching our teens on how to manage their stress now will be a lifelong lesson that they can carry with them into adulthood, preventing burnout, depression, anxiety and other ailments. Curious to learn more? Attend our free parenting class on Tuesday, April 24th, noon-1pm. Held in the conference room on the second floor at the Chantel Building, 3800 S Bascom Ave, San Jose. Please RSVP with Angela Dube,

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