As your teenage daughter moves through high school and college, she will need to make a lot of decisions on her own. Unfortunately, when it comes to decision-making, many teenagers and young adults freeze. They overthink, get caught in a cycle of worry and stress, and ultimately end up stuck. Understanding why it’s so hard for your daughter to make decisions is the first step to helping her become more decisive, and independent.
I have coached hundreds of high school and college girls in the area of decision making and these are the most common barriers I come across.
Lack of Self-Awareness
Self-awareness includes clarity of values and goals. When girls do not have a clear understanding of their values or goals, two of the most important guides to decision-making, they can easily feel lost and unsure. Many high school and college girls need support in connecting with their values and clarifying their goals. One way that parents can support their daughters in connecting with their values and future vision is by asking the simple question, “What’s most important to you?” Allow this question to spark a dialogue that allows her to dream, explore, and tap into what inspires her. A life coach can also help your daughter build self-awareness and learn what values-based actions will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams for the future.
Fear of Failing
Many girls worry about making a wrong decision and want to avoid any experience of failure. They don’t understand that failure is always a redirection and an opportunity to learn and grow. You can help your daughter shift her perception of failure and become more confident in her decision-making skills, by sharing how past mistakes have taken her onto a new and better path. Help her see that within any perceived failure there is information about who she is and what matters to her.
Wanting to Please Others
Throughout high school and college, peers are a heavy influence. Typically, girls will avoid doing anything that may cause controversy, including making a choice that could be viewed negatively by their peers. This tendency to please and seek validation leaves girls in an endless guessing game, trying to discern what their peers would approve of. If your daughter gets caught in the people-pleasing trap, help her build self-confidence and realize that she cannot be responsible for her peers’ (or anyone else’s) opinions. Support the development of critical-thinking skills that empower her to resist peer influence and make choices aligned with her values and goals, rather than what someone may or may not approve of.
Feeling Overwhelmed by Choices
Having a lot of options can feel like a good thing but for many teens and young adults, too many choices equals stress and indecisiveness. When girls get clear on what they really want (aka their goals) they can begin to narrow down their options. When your daughter is overwhelmed by choices, ask her to narrow down the options to two and then ask which one is most likely to get her what she really wants.
A Lack of Self-Trust
When girls don’t trust themselves or haven’t learned how to tune into their intuition, they often second-guess their decisions. Self-trust comes with self-awareness and an ability to reframe failure. When you create an environment for your daughter to take healthy risks, make mistakes and learn from them, and communicate openly with you, she will develop a deep sense of self-trust.
With your support, your daughter can deepen self-awareness and self-trust, understand how failure can work for her, and focus on choices and outcomes that serve her highest good. As she does, she will become an expert in making thoughtful, self-empowering choices.