Originally published: January 2023


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The new year is a time of new beginnings and often makes us think about the future. We ask oursselves questions like “what will this year have in store for me?” and “what would I like to accomplish this year?”. Your teen might even be starting to make new year’s resolutions. As you know, making resolutions is easy but sticking to them can be hard. How can you support your teen in making healthy resolutions that lead to positive change?

It's all about mindset

Our mindset is how we view success, failure, wins, and setbacks. People tend to have two types of mindsets:

A growth mindset helps people view setbacks and failures as an opportunity to grow, learn and improve. They believe they can make positive changes, even if it takes many tries. This way of thinking can lead to more overall satisfaction and happiness.

A fixed mindset leads people to view setbacks and failures as proof they are never going to change or aren’t good enough. This  can cause them to lose motivation to keep trying. This way of thinking can decrease a person’s self-esteem, satisfaction, and happiness.

Does your teen have more of a growth mindset or fixed mindset? The good news is that all people can learn to have a growth mindset more often because our brains can change!

10 ways to help your teen set goals with a growth mindset

Learning to set goals and make positive changes can help your teen develop lifelong habits that support wellness. Parents and caregivers can play a key role in supporting this—here are some tips to get you started:

Share facts about the brain – Talk with your teen about neuroplasticity—the ability of our brains to grow and change over time. Remind them they can shape their brain by learning, practicing, and trying new skills to meet their goals.

Develop (and showcase) your own growth mindset – Teens learn by watching what you do and by listening to what you say. Try showcasing your own growth mindset by talking about your setbacks and how you grow and learn from them.

Collaborate – Teens are often being told by adults what they have to do or should do. When it comes to goal-setting, internal motivation is key. Collaborate with your teen to brainstorm goals they want to reach and then support them in their journey to make the change.

Problem-solve together – When things don’t go as planned, problem-solve solutions together. Listen, ask questions, and help them find a new path. Cheer them on throughout the struggle and remind them that they have the ability to learn from mistakes and continue towards their goal.

Focus on the process rather than the outcome – In a world of social media, it can be easy to think that everyone else’s path to success is easy.  Remind your teen that the journey is just as important as the destination. You can do this by helping them notice and celebrate the small wins along the way.

Praise what’s within their control – The way you praise your teen has a huge impact on the way they view themselves. Praising them for traits like how smart or talented they are can lead to a fixed mindset. Rather, try praising them for their effort. For example, when it comes to school, praise them for how hard they studied or that they didn’t give up on overcoming an obstacle, not for the grade they get.

Make goals realistic – You’ve probably heard the saying, “biting off more than you can chew?” While setting big goals can lead to big successes, but it can also lead to big setbacks. These experiences can cause teens to go back to a fixed mindset. Help your teen set small goals they can achieve. Small successes can help your teen feel satisfaction for their efforts, while small setbacks can help them learn to deal with failure.

Add the word ‘yet’ to your family’s vocabulary – A fixed mindset can lead teens to think or say thoughts and words like “I’ll never be good at this” or “I can’t do it.” The word yet is a small but mighty word—let’s see it in action with these same statements: “I’m not good at this yet” or “I can’t do it yet”. Can you feel the powerful shift in mindset? Try adding it to your everyday conversations!

Teach how change happens – Help your teen set goals with the understanding that setbacks are normal. Change is messy, it doesn’t happen in a straight line. When teens set goals with this understanding, they are much more likely to accept and move forward from setbacks and failures.  

Practice self-compassion – When setbacks happen, it’s easy to be hard on ourselves. Both teens and adults can benefit from learning to be kind to themselves. Here’s something you and your teen can both try: when you make mistakes, ask yourself, “how would I treat a friend in this situation?”. You’d probably give them reassurance, kind words, and a hug; try to do the same for yourself!

From growth mindset to resilience

Building a growth mindset in your teen can help them succeed in keeping resolutions and making positive changes. A growth mindset can also lead to resilience! Resiliency means being able to recover, or ‘bounce back,’ from struggles. What happens when you combine a growth mindset with resiliency? The ability to bounce forward! As we kick off this new year, strive to support your teen’s efforts to set goals using a growth mindset. Together you can bounce forward through the joys and challenges of 2023!

To  learn more about growth mindset, see these resources: 

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