Anxiety and depression are characterized by self-doubt and hopelessness for one’s future, which impacts one’s ability to be make concrete goals about what they want in life. It is hard enough for your anxious middle school daughter to trust that she can make it through a day at school, let alone think about high school or beyond.
She has internalized beliefs that she is inadequate and that it is impossible for her to succeed according to either expectations she has set for herself or social expectations. Self-esteem is linked to one’s ability to believe in themselves and confidently and consistently pursue their goals.
What is Perseverance?
According to a new longitudinal study conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, perseverance towards goals reduces risk of depression and anxiety. They followed participants across almost twenty years and tracked their mental health as well as goal persistence, self-mastery and positive appraisal.
Although they expected self-esteem and optimism to be strongly correlated with mental wellness, they found a stronger association between goal persistence and a decline in mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. A possible reason for this finding is that self-mastery and positive appraisal are often part of one’s personality, while goals and perseverance changes over time.
Perseverance refers to continued effort to do something despite difficulties, failure, or delays in achieving success. Young girls struggling with depression and anxiety struggle with believing this is possible, let alone something they are capable of developing themselves. Perseverance is not just about goal setting, but emphasizes a willingness to go with the flow and keep going. It encourages problem-solving, risk-taking, taking initiative, and learning how to cope with distress and negative emotions.
How to Encourage Your Anxious Middle School Daughter Not to Give Up:
- Talk about the difference between short term and long term goals. Sometimes short term goals will help you reach your long term goals and sometimes they’re all about instant gratification, which is okay too. Ask her about her intentions as well as her concrete plans. Her long term goals might be more in line with “feeling happier” or “being comfortable with who I am” rather than specific career plans.
- Focus on the positive. Personal success is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A positive attitude reflects the desire to move forward despite all the emotions and hardships that seem to be pulling them back. By focusing on positive personal qualities and things they are grateful for, it is easier to see challenges as opportunities for growth and learning.
- Let them “fail” from time to time. Do not always jump to their rescue when they are feeling overwhelmed. It is okay to ask if they want your help with anything, but they often learn more from trying to solve a problem in creative ways than for something to be done for them. Occasional “failure” is good for one’s ego and helps kids take responsibility for things they might have done wrong to ensure they learn from their mistakes.
- Teach them to try again. A great example of perseverance is scientist Thomas Edison, who invented the first electric light bulb after thousands of “failed” attempts. His mindset and opposition to the word failure was essential to his success and claiming, “I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that did not work.”
- Vocalize your support. Remind her that she has the power to keep going, to change the things she wants to change, and to not get discouraged by bad days or situations. Remind her that she is capable and that she is loved. Remind her that you will not give up on them and that she should not give up on herself.
How Asheville Academy for Girls Can Help
Asheville Academy for Girls is an accredited Therapeutic Boarding School for middle school girls 10-14. Our students commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, learning differences, attachment and other emotional and behavioral issues. We teach our students the importance of persevering and not letting things dim their potential to shine. Our small classrooms encourage teamwork and collaboration with additional support for girls struggling with academic skills. This program is focused on emotion regulation and building confidence, communication skills, and social skills that will help students transition back into their home and school life. We can help your family today!