Whether it’s school, friends, love interests, your boundaries or a myriad of other things, your teen is having an emotional reaction of the messy kind; anger, angst, sadness, devastation, frustration, annoyance, low confidence, etc. (insert dark and stormy cloud).

When your child hurts, you hurt. It’s genetic.

You’re their parent, the person who’s known them longest so it’s on your shoulders to sprinkle your special brand of cheer to turn that frown upside down.

These situations call for the good stuff at the back of the costume closet. Pompom parenting ENGAGE! (Insert cheer, high kicks and all.)

“Turn that frown, upside down!

First be happy, then believe

And your dreams, you’ll achieve!

Gooooo (insert name)!”

Or maybe…

“It could be worse.”

“Why can’t you see what I see? Why don’t you see what an amazing person you are? If you’d just believe how (fill in the blank) I think you are, you probably wouldn’t be struggling.”

So, who is this REALLY about?

You love your teen and want nothing more than happiness and success for them. But there’s more under the surface.

Your discomfort with feelings that fall outside of happy to neutral triggers the fight or flight response in your brain and sends you in to fix it/cheerleader mode.

If you’re like me, messy feelings were reserved for other people. You were expected to be happy or quiet to please your parents and to compensate for other people with messy feelings around you (siblings, parents, etc.) Being happy was your JOB.

“The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame.”

Mark Manson – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

It feels safe and familiar and whether it worked for you or not, the pattern represents loving action. Your parents aren’t bad people (no, I’ve never met them). They did the best they could at a very different time in the world. A time when children’s behaviour was a direct reflection of the quality of parenting and the quality of person that parent was.

What does it say about you if your teen isn’t happy?

Does that make you a bad parent? No. Not now, not ever. You and I were never taught this stuff so here we are as parents, taking the accelerated relationship fundamentals course…by raising children in the most consequential experience of our lives. And theirs.

I’d rather be whole than good – Carl Jung

Whenever your intention is to change your teen, even in the smallest way, invalidation shows up.

If you continually rally behind your teen in full pompom parenting, your teen believes their messy feelings aren’t welcome, it’s not safe to share them with you, those feelings are wrong, shameful and they are wrong and shameful. In addition, they feel guilty for not being happy and the pressure to live up to your perception of them feels harder and heavier.

Toxic positivity is the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations that results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.

Samara Quintero, LMFT, CHT and Jamie Long, PsyD

Motivation isn’t bad and it has a great effect when you understand the time and place. Validate first, and for longer than you might think. Only then does motivation have the impact you’re looking for but not if it’s over the top, pompom cheering intended to change your teen in anyway. The best motivation sounds like, “I believe in you”.

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