Home Family & SocietyFamily Dynamics Seven Steps to Helping The Perfectionist Child and Adolescent

Seven Steps to Helping The Perfectionist Child and Adolescent

written by Dr. Erin Leonard January 14, 2019
Seven Steps to Helping The Perfectionist Child and Adolescent

As a child and adolescent psychotherapist, I was invited to a local high school to speak to parents about perfectionist kids (kids who are obsessed with good grades, high GPAs, perfect performances, etc.) Although these kids seem like dreamy kids from a distance—great grades, hardworking and well behaved—they are actually a handful. Ridden with anxiety about their next assignment, paper, quiz and test, they stay up half the night, every night, studying after a full day of school and extracurricular activities. They are perpetually exhausted, rarely relaxed, and forever neurotic about life. The price they pay is high because when they crack, they are a mess. Panic attacks, depression, and somatic complaints abound.

Essentially, every day is a crisis because their entire self-worth depends on their next accomplishment.

In the eyes of a perfectionist child, they are only as good as their next achievement. So, how does a parent a help? Understanding their developmental stage is a good start. Steps towards independence force an adolescent to think about who they are in relationship to the world. Are they a good student? Are they funny? Are they athletic, artistic, musical, pretty, smart, popular, goth, punk, serious, etc? They have gobs of choices to make every day that dictate who they are and who they will be in the world. That is a lot of pressure.

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