Why Your Teen Automatically Thinks the Worst

Why do kids immediately think the worst about a situation or another child's or teen's actions?

Kids and teens often jump to the worst case scenario when their minds run a little anxious. It’s a self-preservation technique on overdrive. Their anxious mind assumes “so and so pushed me on purpose,” or “those kids laughing in class must be laughing at me,” which leads to a fight, flight, or freeze response.

What are some specific ways parents can help guide their children/teens into thinking the best, not the worst, of others?

I always coach the kids I work with to take a pause and step back from the situation. They could be right - this person could have knocked into them on purpose.

But what else could be true?

Could it have been an accident? And if it was an accident, how would that change their feelings and their actions? Breaking down this cognitive triangle (thoughts, feelings, behaviors) can be so impactful for kids and teens, and it gives them more control over their reactions.

Why is it important for kids/teens to think more positively when assigning motives to actions of siblings, friends or classmates?

When we assume the worst, we react in negative ways. Again, it makes sense for our brains to jump to negative conclusions. It’s trying to protect us, but it’s not always helpful. If we take a step back to really look at the situation and figure out what could be going on, our reactions become much more positive.

Curious to hear more? Do you have an anxious kid or overwhelmed teen who jumps to the worst case scenario? Kelsey Torgerson specializes in anxiety and anger management for kids, stress for teens, and perfectionism in college students at Compassionate Counseling St. Louis. You can reach her at kelsey@compassionatecounselingstl.comor 314-339-7640

She works in Clayton, MO and serves families throughout St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Ladue, Town and Country, Webster Groves, Creve Couer, Kirkwood, Richmond Heights, and Brentwood.