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Helping Teens with Overthinking

Many of my students are overthinkers. Usually, I find this out when I see they are struggling with a fairly basic task, such as being in the parking lot working on turning and steering. I’ll have them put the car in park, and then we have a conversation along the lines of this:

“Are you an overthinker?” 

“Oh yeah, definitely.” 

“Are you a perfectionist?” 

“Oh definitely; everything has to be perfect.”

“And how’s that working out for you?”

“...It’s not.”

Of course, I don’t expect that overthinking is helping them, but it brings attention to their mindset.

Because I see this so often with my students, I wanted to talk with a professional about it to learn more about how I as a coach and all parents can help these teens with their overthinking.

Lynne Moser is a licensed, clinical social worker, who has a therapy private practice. She has worked with teens and adults for the past 25 years. In our interview, she sheds some light on the root causes of overthinking and strategies that parents and coaches can utilize to help their teens.

You can watch the full interview here and below are some excerpts from Lynne from our conversation.

“Students, in general, are so used to studying to do well on the test, to get the grade, to get their parents to be proud, to have good report cards that they aren't really tuned in with their own humanity. They're rewarded for success and rewarded by all of their effort and their good grades, so they're not really told that it's okay to make mistakes. But that's the way we learn - by screwing up - that's the way we make improvements in pretty much everything.”

“One way of helping them is just to make them aware that they are setting unrealistic expectations for themselves. If they think that they're going to be able to drive a car perfectly in one lesson, for example, yeah it's impossible.”

“I think it's also important for parents to support their learning in that way. So that even though parents are generally rooting for the goal and going for the A+, parents would also be

benefiting their teens by letting them know that they are allowed to make a mistake and that the fixing it is how we improve.”

“We're dealing with kids who are being trained to excel in school and who are not being supported when it comes to vulnerability or emotionality or things that are just part of The human experience.”

“You start to build some resilience and some control over your own thoughts. So there's a mindfulness practice or just an awareness of being able to calm yourself down, so that you can focus and are not trying to achieve everything that you want to achieve right at that moment.”

“I have one overarching umbrella rule that I think is the best thing as a social worker or as a therapist. We learn to be where the client is, so before anything is going to be effective, we have to know where our kids are.”


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