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Common Negative Thought Patterns in Teens and How to Reframe Them: Obsessing Over the Negative

Nothing hurts a parent's heart more than watching a child obsess over their perceived failures while not giving any attention to their obvious accomplishments. We lament the fact that our children have gained such perfectionist qualities to the point of hurting their self-esteem. We want them to be able to recognize what good they do in life while learning from their mistakes. The last thing we want is for our children to be paralyzed by their drive for perfection, cultivating an inner narrative of harsh criticism.   Teens and adolescents in recovery might relapse or experience a slip-up. Children are simply prone to making mistakes, just as adults are. One of the most harmful thought processes which can come up during a relapse is I'll never be able to stay sober. Such a damaging catastrophic thought can prevent a teen or adolescent from going into treatment again and pursuing sobriety once more. As they start over, possibly detoxing again, resetting their sobriety date, and beginning again, they might obsess over their relapse. Instead of focusing on the many things they did right- like how much time they had been sober, all the accomplishments they made, the fact that they quickly came back to recovery instead of continuing to relapse- they only focus on their mistake. Rumination can be dangerous for teens and adolescents in recovery. Focusing only on the negative can cause symptoms of depression which feel demotivating and uninspiring.  

Don't sugar coat their relapse

You never want to tell your teen in recovery that relapse is okay. While it is true that relapse can be part of recovery, it is also true that relapse does not have to be part of recovery. Relapse is a choice that your teens made. You want them to take responsibility for making that decision, but not to the point of hurting themselves mentally. Tell them it is true they relapsed and it is true that relapse is a mistake, but that they can find recovery again, this time without relapse.  

Help them see their accomplishments

Parents are quick to roll out a mile long scroll of everything wonderful their child has ever done since the moment they were conceived. Though a teen needs to hear about their accomplishments, a teen also has to learn to see their accomplishments for themselves. Otherwise, we set them up for a harmful pattern of relying on external validation. Ask your teen to take a moment and really think about some of the things they did right. Then, ask your teen about some of the choices they could have made which would have continued the path of relapse. Comparing the two, ask your teen if they can see how capable they are of good decision making, success, and accomplishment. Point out to your teen that everyone makes mistakes and everyone has the ability to rectify them.  

Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center offers long term residential treatment programs for addiction recovery. Our programs involve the whole family for foundation building, life cleansing change.

Call us today to start living your recovery: 662-598-4214