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Thrive Therapy & Counseling provides high quality therapy to Highly Sensitive People and to kids, teens or adults struggling with anxiety, depression or self-esteem.

5 Tips on Building Frustration Tolerance in Your Teen


This blog is written by a therapist in midtown Sacramento and focuses on the concerns and struggles of highly sensitive people (HSPs) and of kids, teens and adults struggling with depression, anxiety or just trying to figure out what they want for themselves.  There's help and hope through counseling and therapy!

5 Tips on Building Frustration Tolerance in Your Teen

Ivy Griffin

“I hate math! I’m done!” shouts your 14 year old as he slams his book shut and jumps up from the kitchen table, almost knocking over the chair with him. You watch the severe scowl of irritation on his face and his I’m so totally done with homework tonight vibe with some bewilderment. You wonder why he gave up so quickly or what was so challenging about the work. The recurring theme for your kiddo is his impatience and unwillingness to put in the extra effort. 

I see it in my office a lot—a low frustration tolerance in teens when they fail. Failing is tough for all of us! That’s why is it so important now for your child to learn how to cope when frustrating moments happen in life. 

Here are my tips on how to build your teen’s frustration tolerance up:

  1. Let them struggle: That’s right, I said it. Let them struggle! The natural parental instinct is to help your kid, especially when they begin to get frustrated. But guess what? It is time that your teen learns what it feels like to sit with his frustrations. Don’t put on your Super Parent cape and rescue them. They have to experience this frustration. So stand back—and let go. Count to 10 if you need a moment to help cope with your feelings about this. ;)

  2. Model Your Coping Skills: We adults experience frustration every day, so how do you handle it? If you have a meltdown when you’re frustrated, your teen has more than likely picked up on it. (They really do absorb what we do, even if it seems like the last thing they’re doing is paying attention to us.) Or, on the flip side, maybe you verbalize your feelings and express what you need by saying something like, “I am so frustrated right now; I need a break.” Or, “I’m feeling super stressed out, I’m going for a walk.” Guess what? Your teen will pick up on this too! If you can step up and model good coping skills around your frustration, his will more than likely start changing too.

  3. Positive Re-framing: With behavior there is always an underlying message. So, what is your teen really saying when he shouts, “I hate math! I’m done!”? Maybe he is tired of failing and getting hurt. Emotionally translate his first statement into: “I am so frustrated with my homework, and I feel stupid by failing over and over.” Yikes, now it’s much easier to empathize with him—don’t we all hate feeling stupid?  So, focus on responding to his behavior through understanding, patience, and having a positive mindset. Even Batman struggled with this failing. It was his father who taught him, “Why do we fall? So that we can learn how to pick ourselves back up.” 

  4. Identify Feelings! It is as simple as it sounds. Help your teen label his frustration and name it out loud. Let him vent about his ‘stupid homework’ and express his feelings around it. Maybe even help him by reflecting his feelings back by saying, “I can see and feel how frustrated you are. This homework sounds tough!” Identifying emotions is a helpful way of taming them when we feel out of control or under stress. 

  5. Breaks are a necessity: Allow for breaks, especially if emotions are running high. This is true for homework or any other challenging task. If need be, let your teen take 10-15 minutes, and come back after listening to some music, watching a youtube video, taking the dog for a walk, etc. You might even offer or bring over something to drink or a healthy snack. Then, once break time is over, support your teen in getting back in there.  

Even with these coping skills, there must be boundaries, such as time limits and always coming back to finish as much of the homework as possible. As your teen builds up his frustration tolerance, remember—yours will be building too! Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make better. 

By Arielle Grossman

And, if you need support for you or your teen, we're happy to help! 

Thrive Therapy & Counseling
1614 X St., Suite A
Sacramento, CA 95818