RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT CENTER FOR TROUBLED TEENAGE BOYS

Is Your Son Too Positive? Is That A Thing?


When we talk about “toxic” traits in people, positivity rarely comes up. Positivity is typically thought of as a good thing. Looking at the bright side of a bad situation and generally staying optimistic are both pretty good traits. However, toxic positivity does exist. It’s just a little harder to spot.

If you are worried that your son might be struggling with mental health problems and masking them with positivity, you may need to seek outside help.

Though optimism can certainly be a good thing, it’s unhealthy for teens to remain blindly optimistic even in the face of adversity. At Sundance Canyon Academy, we work with students to develop coping skills that help them see life realistically and address their negative emotions.

What is Toxic Positivity?

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to pretend to be happy even though you weren’t? Maybe you had a customer service job and had to put on a smile while you worked behind the counter. Or perhaps you had a horrible day at work, but you tried to act like everything was fine when you picked the kids up from school. We’ve all been in those situations where we’re expected to act like nothing is wrong even though something is wrong.

When we do it situationally, that’s one thing. Employers typically don’t like it when we bring all of our baggage from home to work with us and let it loose on the customers. However, when we constantly pretend that everything is fine and putting on a fake smile, we can end up suffering from it.

Toxic positivity is the tendency to project an overly happy or optimistic view onto every aspect of life. People need to be able to express how they’re feeling, even when everything is falling apart. This is especially true for teenagers.

Why do teens fall prey to Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity stems from the belief that negative or unpleasant feelings are inherently bad. Kids can start to pick up on this belief when they’re little, and then they struggle with it as they grow up. If, as a child, adults tried to fix every bad situation, told them to stop crying when they were sad, or otherwise mocked negative emotions, kids start thinking that their negative emotions are bad.

So, they learn not to let on that they might be feeling a negative emotion. They smile even when they’re sad. They pretend that they’re not lonely. They endure difficult situations and act like it doesn’t phase them. Teens with toxic positivity hope that negative feelings will just go away if they’re ignored. However, that’s not how emotions work.

When we suppress our emotions, they only grow stronger. Suppressed emotions can also show up in more damaging ways. Teens who constantly suppress negative emotions might turn to drugs or alcohol to numb unpleasant feelings. They could also suffer from depression or anxiety due to constantly trying to manage how they feel and “make” everything positive.

How to help your teen address negative emotions

If you suspect that your son is too positive and is trying to downplay his negative emotions, talk to him about it.

Teenagers are notoriously bad at communicating how they feel, so your son may need some coaxing to talk about what’s going on. Let him know that it’s OK for him to be upset and that you will support him in bad times and good times. Your teen needs to know that he can come to you to talk about what’s going on even when it’s unpleasant.

Though therapy can be beneficial for all teens who are learning to sort through their emotions, it can really be necessary for teens experiencing toxic positivity. Some teens are unable to address negative feelings and need to learn to do so before adulthood. If they continue to act like everything is great all of the time without ever facing reality, they can become emotionally stunted and struggle with realistic decision-making in the future.

If you are worried that your son is too positive and is out of touch with reality, consider sending him to a therapeutic boarding school. While some parents try to snap their kids into shape with a military school or bootcamp, those atmospheres don’t reinforce positive coping skills.

By attending a therapeutic school, your son will learn to accept negative emotions for what they are and learn positive coping skills to get through hard times.

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