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Promoting Positive Thoughts in Teens

The term “stinkin’ thinkin” is used in some 12-step programs and self-help groups. It refers to negative thinking patterns. It reflects the idea that what a person thinks has an impact on how they behave. In other words: What you think about today will appear in your tomorrow.

While I don't attend a 12-step program, I will admit I have temporary moments of thinking that don’t smell so fresh. Most of us do. However, repeated negative self-talk, especially in teenagers may be a signal that help is needed. Here are some examples:

"I'm not applying for that job. I'm sure there is someone more qualified."
"I’ve always been like this; I’ll never be able to change."
"I know I'm going to get sick; I get sick every January."
"I never win anything."
“All my friends are smarter than me.”
“I knew I would fail that exam.”

Adults and teenagers handle stress in different ways. Adults may use the rational portion of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, to offset negative thoughts and make positive decisions. On the contrary, teens use the emotional part of the brain much more often in day-to-day living. In fact, the rational part of the brain isn’t fully developed until around 25 years of age.

With so many influences and stimuli bombarding teens every day, it can be hard for them to rationally make sense of it all. They are vulnerable to sustaining stinkin’ thinking from those developing noggins.

Here are a few ways to help combat negative thought patterns and nurture more positive ways of thinking.

  1. Help your teen examine where negative thoughts are coming from.
  2. Eliminate or reduce negative influences and replace them with positive ones (e.g. what they are viewing on social media).
  3. Help your teen rephrase their negative self-talk to a more positive outlook on a situation (e.g. I didn’t do well on the test. I can do better next time if I put in more study time.)
  4. Practice positive self-talk (e.g. I’ve got this. I can handle it.)
  5. Seek outside help if necessary. There are therapies available that are designed to combat negative self-talk.

Check out the article The Teen Brain: 7 Things to Know

If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, talk with their pediatrician, or contact CHKD’s mental health program at 757-668-HOPE (4673).

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About Adrianna and Ryan Walden

About Adrianna and Ryan  Walden

Ryan and Adrianna Walden have been married for 17 years. The two met when she was working for an arena football team in Norfolk where he was playing football. Ryan is a service coordinator with the Chesapeake Early Intervention Program and Adrianna is a Licensing Specialist for Children's Programs with the Department of Education. Both enjoyed teaching CHKD’s "Happiest Baby" class together for over a decade. Together they have one daughter, who despite early health issues, is now a thriving and happy teen. The Walden's have a passion for working with children and married couples.