08-31-2020 02:28 PM - last edited on 01-18-2021 04:34 PM by Janine-RO
Ask A Child And Family Professional
My 13 year old is full of negative self talk, saying things like she thinks she’s ugly and she doesn’t deserve friends. It’s been suggested that she try and say/write 3 positive things down every day but she won’t do it. Any ideas as to how to change her way of thinking and getting her to engage?
Negative self-talk is really common in teens (and in adults!) The things we say about ourselves can really impact how we feel, so it is encouraging to hear that you are wanting to help your daughter to think more positively about herself.
I’m wondering if you’ve had the opportunity to explore with your daughter whether there is anything in particular that is leading her to believe these things about herself? Sometimes it can be hard for 13 year olds to talk with their parents about their lives and how they are feeling, but if she is willing to speak with you about what is happening for her, then exploring what’s happening with curiosity and gentle concern, and spending time listening to her concerns, without trying to ‘fix’ the problem, can help her feel supported and also help you better understand where she is coming from.
Using positive statements (or affirmations) is something many people do to tackle negative self-talk, and can be very helpful. But, in order for this to be helpful, it’s important to use realistic positive statements. Responding to thoughts like “I’m stupid” with “I’m amazing” is less likely to work than choosing a specific positive like “I’m a good listener”.
Another way to tackle negative self-talk that some young people prefer, is to think about what they might say to a friend or younger relative (it can help to picture a specific person). Your daughter may be being much harsher towards herself than she would be to anyone else, and if she can recognise this, she might find it easier to come up with encouraging things she can say to herself.
It’s also really important that your daughter feels like she has a say in how she tackles the unhelpful self-talk. If writing positive self-talk feels like homework or a chore for her, then it will be harder for her to benefit from it. She might have other ideas about what would be helpful for her (such as spending time with people who make her feel good about herself, talking to someone, or doing a fun activity when her mood is low) If she is involved in deciding what option to try, she may be more willing to give things a go.
It’s also important that she knows that strategies to deal with self-talk and low mood often take a bit of time to work. The things we say to ourselves can become a habit, and habits take time to change, so it can help to try things for a while before switching to something else.
If she would be open to talking to a counsellor or psychologist, this could be helpful - they can work with her to help to develop strategies that are specific to her, as well as giving her some space to talk about what is going on for her.
I hope this is helpful. It’s great to see that you are looking for solutions to help your daughter, and I’m sure that having such a caring parent has been a real positive in her life.
Linda is a psychologist experienced in working with people across the lifespan, including teenagers and their families ,in a variety of settings, and is ReachOut's Clinical Lead.
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08-31-2020 02:55 PM
Hi @Bnee28 , I just wanted to let you know that our wonderful Child and Family Professional, Linda, has also answered your question here. I hope you and your daughter are doing well, and I hope that you find these insights helpful!
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