How to Help Your Teen Overcome Setbacks

By Steven Darby - June 3, 2024

Disappointments are a natural part of life, whether it’s a lower-than-expected grade or not making the football team. While it’s tough to see your child experience painful emotions, you can help them navigate these setbacks and emerge stronger. Here are four steps to support your teen and help them overcome challenges.

1. Acknowledge Their Feelings

When your teen shares news of a setback, they’re likely feeling upset, embarrassed, or disappointed. It’s crucial to acknowledge their emotions rather than immediately offering advice. Start by validating their feelings with empathetic statements like, “That must be really hard. I know how much this meant to you.”

Giving them time to process their emotions before jumping into problem-solving is important. Sharing a personal story of facing a similar setback can also help them feel less alone and more understood.

2. Normalize Mistakes and Setbacks

Once the initial sting has faded, help your teen reframe mistakes as a natural part of learning. Teenagers often fear looking inadequate and may see setbacks as confirmation of their worst fears. You can counter this by sharing stories of successful individuals who faced numerous setbacks before achieving their goals.

For instance, watch a movie together like “The Imitation Game,” where Alan Turing overcomes significant challenges, or discuss how Stephen King received numerous rejection letters before his first novel was published. Your own openness about mistakes, whether at work or at home, can also show your teen that everyone makes errors and it’s perfectly normal.

3. Help Them Analyze What Went Wrong

Encourage your teen to reflect on the reasons behind their setback. Was it a one-off mistake, like forgetting homework, or part of a recurring issue, such as consistently low grades in a particular subject? Approach this discussion without judgment to foster an environment where they feel supported rather than criticized.

Ask questions like, “This is a tough situation. How do you think we can work through it?” This approach shows you’re on their side and ready to help. Additionally, consult with their teachers or coaches to gain further insights and suggestions for support, such as joining a homework club or attending a summer sports camp.

4. Highlight the Positive Outcomes

After some time has passed, revisit the setback and encourage your teen to identify any positives that emerged from the experience. Did it lead to a new interest or skill? Did it inspire creative thinking or problem-solving? Regularly engaging in these types of conversations can help your teen see setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning.

By supporting your teen through these steps, you’re not only helping them overcome immediate challenges but also equipping them with the resilience and confidence to handle future setbacks. This approach fosters a positive mindset and prepares them to face life’s hurdles with determination and optimism.

Peak Learning Solutions DTC is your destination for academic progress. From algebra to calculus, statistics to history, and even AP courses, we offer personalized tutoring and teaching to bolster your child's performance. Our certified teachers specialize in enhancing metacognition and executive functioning skills, making us your partners in success. Reach out to our local, small business today at 720-737-9221 or visit to embark on a journey towards excellence in education. Rest assured, we're here to support your child's academic journey. We proudly serve students from neighboring schools, including Cherry Creek High School, George Washington High School, Our Lady of Loreto, Chatfield High School, Chaparral High School, Arapahoe High School, and Thomas Jefferson High School.

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