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Let's Talk about Worries

“It’ll be ok. Just take a deep breath.”

While that might be true, let me tell you something: my heart is racing, my breath is short, my stomach is upside down and inside out. My temperature is rising and my face is getting red. 

This happened two weeks ago, when I posted my first blog in a long time. 

My thoughts were screaming in my head:

  • What if no one reads it? What if everyone reads it? 

  • I have only been in education 20 years, I should have waited until I know more. 

  • All this worry is making me so tired. I am going to stay home forever so I don’t have to face anyone. 

  • I can’t do this again. Ever. It’s too scary.

I am 47 years old. I have experience doing scary things. I know a thing or two about big feelings. Can you imagine, if this was my reaction, what a teenager’s reaction might be to doing something brave or something for the first time?

Doing brave or new things is far more likely to happen to a teenager. Learning experiences are designed to tap into the novel experiences. Big life skills are expected to be taught and honed as a teenager: driving a car, cooking, taking care of oneself and others. 

Teenagers are worriers. How can we support them?

Renee Jain and Dr. Shefali Tsabary co-authored a book called SuperPowered: Transform Anxiety into Courage, Confidence, and Resilience. I use this resource all the time when I talk to teenagers; which is every day. When students come to me with their very unique and personal concerns I try to break down their needs with the following framework.

Each one of us came into this world with P.O.W.E.R. 


P: Present - You played with what was in front of you. You didn’t think about the future or the past. You only thought about the right now.

O: Original - You were the main character in your own show! You didn’t care about what others thought - you wore that favorite outfit and did not hide your feelings about certain [green] foods.

W: Whole - You were proud of yourself and wanted to share! You hung your coloring on the fridge, you were not afraid to share your life with others. Remember share day?

E: Energized - You woke up ready to see what the day brought, and if it was something awesome, you felt awesome! Taking a nap or going to sleep was a terrible interruption to the adventure!

R: Resilient - Falling did not mean failing. It meant you were learning something new - how to walk, ride a bike, read, count. You kept trying!


If any one of these feelings is being challenged, there is another side POWER. And it looks a whole lot like I looked when I was scared about publishing a blog post. 

  • What-iffing: Not thinking about what is happening right now. Instead, you are thinking about the past or the future.

  • What if questions are a clear sign of thinking about the past - what if what happened before will happen again? 

  • What if questions are more likely to wonder about the future and no one knows what the future brings!?!?

  • Hiding in plain sight: Belonging is the goal for so many teens. As such, making choices that keep the status quo the same is easy. Easy? … is that what is best? Or what your teen wants?

  • Overwhelmed: Avoidance is one of the biggest action step when someone feels overwhelmed - “it wasn’t me”, “the teacher lost my work”, “I am so tired”, “I’m confused”, scrolling through social media, using substances. 

Next Step:

Think about your teenager. Think of a time, when they were aged 0-6 years old, when they showed the attributes of POWER. Think of five examples in total. One example of Present, Original, Whole, Energized, Resilient. Be ready to share these stories with your teen.

When everyone is in a calm state of being, ask your teenager to identify a time when they felt

Present, Original, Whole, Energized, Resilient. 

Share the stories. Laugh, take time to connect with your teenager. The foundation is now set to use the framework in the future. When your teenager comes home with worries and they share with you it is a great time to work with them. 

A gift has be given to you. Your teenager is sharing. LISTEN carefully.

When they are telling you about their worries…

IF your teen say “what-if”, know that they are not living in the present. Their worry is about the past or more likely not knowing the future. In this situation, when a teenager is telling a story about what might happen, ask them for the evidence. “What evidence do you have for [this story you are sharing]?” Is the evidence valid? You could also play out the worst case scenario. If you do this, be sure not to travel to the scariest option. Once you get to the worst place, process with your teen backwards to where we are right now. In other words, come back to the present. 

IF your teen talks about not being themselves and having to change who they are to fit in, they are not connected with being Original or Whole. Point this out. Ask the question: “What would your younger self want for you?” Remind them of the story they told about being Original or Whole, use the stories you shared with them. Identify one small thing they can do that will connect them with their Original or Whole self. 

IF your teen begins to blame others or deflect the conversation to another topic, then they are avoiding. Your teen is telling you that they are not Energized or Resilient. Great questions to ask them dig into their bigger perspective. “What is a big goal you have? What does that look like?” This will help identify what you are energized by. Another question is “What is going through your mind when tough times happen?” Listen to see if your teen needs to develop more HOPE, COURAGE, or MOTIVATION. 


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From our All-School Assembly, February 28, 2024 Written by Nell Dailey “On this rainy day in February, I want to share a story with you. So sit back, put your phones away, and give me your attention.


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