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5 Tips to Prepare Your Teen for College and Career - Part 1

Nov 22, 2021

Tip #1: Teach them how to fail.

You will fail. And so will your kids.

In small ways and big ways. In ways that you may not even realize yet.

Emotions of frustration, anger, sorrow, even depression can accompany failure, especially if the failure is something you have invested large amounts of time, money, or energy into.

But failure is less about making mistakes and more about recognizing learning opportunities, both in the external circumstances and within yourself.

As a response to these emotions and failure, do you wallow in self-pity, or do you accept failure as a necessary process?

Do you get angry, or do you redirect your emotions into positive actions?

Do you blame others, or do you look for ways to improve yourself?               

How you respond to failure will influence how your kids respond. And what you expect from them.

Here’s one 4-step process to try.

  1. Identify the Emotion

My wife uses the phrase, “Name it to tame it.” Often we can be plagued by vague feelings of anxiety or abstract depression. It has a power more power over us if it remains unnamed. Once we identify exactly how we are feeling, labeling the emotion, we can begin to manage our response to the emotion.

  1. Visualize the Emotion

I know this may sound a bit odd, but it’s all part of taking control of your responses. Visualizing the emotion makes it tangible, malleable, controllable. Ask questions like, where do you feel the emotion in your body? What does it look like? How big is it? How heavy? What color? How loud or quiet? How fast or slow? Attach as many sensory details as you can to the emotion.

  1. Manage the Emotion

Once you have visualized the emotion, you have much greater power over it, and you can change its relationship to you. Make it smaller or further away, put it in a jar or dissipate it like smoke. Change the physical shape of the emotion, so that you feel safer, bigger, more powerful than it.

For example, I was feeling anxious and afraid for a variety of reasons. For me, the emotion felt like a shapeless, black, undulating blob that had dark tentacles seeking to attach themselves to me. It was big and sadistic, not moving very fast, but weighty in its own significance.

I visualized shrinking the creature, putting the fear into a mason jar, and sealing the lid.

As it reduced in size and became contained, I began to breath more deeply, relax, and think more clearly. I could look more objectively at the things scaring me and strategize ways to deal with them.

  1. Use the failure or circumstance as a catalyst for change

Once you have managed the emotion, determine what your role or response was in the situation. Without self-condemnation, evaluate what you could have done differently to achieve a different outcome, if anything. Identify how you responded and what other options were available.

Ultimately, this type of analysis is more about what the situation teaches you about your own tendencies and responses.


Whether you have other strategies for coping with failure and negative emotions or use something similar to what is described above, share your successes and failures with your young adult. Sharing how you manage your emotions, especially in the moment, can bring you closer to your child and give them a healthy example of how to cope with their emotions, whether from failure or not.

For teens and young adults, there are many experiences that can seem overwhelming. Consider a young adult’s perspective. You have probably experienced a wide variety of difficult situations, learned that you can handle them, and know that the extreme emotions will not last forever.

For a teen, that situation and associated emotions may loom much larger, since it is new. They don’t have the perspective of knowing the emotions won’t retain the same intensity forever and that there will be many other experiences to enjoy.

Model for your teen how to bring things back into perspective. Let them know they are not alone and that their current emotions are on a much bigger timeline than just today.

Part 1/5

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