When Your Teen Says “Life’s Not Fair!”

Posted November 22, 2010 by

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Is your teenager feeling stressed because they are experiencing some bumps along the road of life? For teenagers, unfair events such as being turned down for a date can make them feel unlovable.  Doing poorly on a test that they studied hard for can cause them to feel like failures, and being cut from a sports team often makes them feel unimportant.

On a larger scale, when bad things happen to good people, it is not unusual to feel of tinge of hopelessness and powerlessness.  You may ask, “Why did such an event happen to this nice person when it wasn’t their fault?”  Upon questioning an unfortunate and unfair incident, your teen might even wonder, “Why bother?”

By the time you’re an adult, you’ve learned that life is often difficult and frequently unfair.  The good times are great and we cruise through them, but we struggle through the tough and unfair times.  If your teen is experiencing some challenging times, they’re probably not be interested in hearing how these moments offer opportunities to strengthen their character and grow their self-esteem!

So how can you advise your teen when life seems unfair?  Here are three points that I suggest as a starting place.  Since keeping open lines of communication is critical, each of these three points offers an opportunity for dialog between parent and teen.

1. Watch how your teen reacts to the situation. How they choose to respond is one of the most important aspects in dealing with the world we live in.  Have your teen resist playing the victim role.  It is difficult to grow and mature from an event while playing the victim role because a victim gets stuck focusing on the hurting emotions of the situation.  The victim can’t move past that point, imprisoned and reliving the pain. Have your teen consider that everything that happens offers a chance to expand and learn a broader meaning about life.

2. Maintain positive self-esteem. Even if bad things happen, make certain that your teen realizes that they are not bad people.  This may be a time in their lives to move on and spend time with other people, participate in other events or trying different activities.  Had this unfortunate situation not happened, your teen would still be carrying on as before.  Life is a journey and there is a lot to experience.  Your teen can learn, grow and broaden their perspectives from things that seem unfair.

3. Maintain a positive outlook. You may want to talk to your teen about the many positive attributes they possess, and the things in life for which they can be thankful.  Writing a gratitude list may be tough for them to complete if they are hurting from an event, but gentle encouragement may be in order to help them begin to realize that they will see brighter days ahead. Learning from this situation may help them handle future episodes in life a little easier.

I would encourage parents to try these ideas with teens who are experiencing moments of unfairness in life.  What are some things you’ve said to your child when they think that life is unfair?


Ann Gatty, Ph.D.is a life coach, inforpreneur, author and organizational strategist. She has taught in classrooms and organizational training sessions and now works as a life coach for professional and personal development. Dr. Gatty has developed curriculum for college courses, organizational training and personal development. From her work and personal experiences, she finds a continuous need among women, of all walks of life, to find a life balance between professional goals and personal responsibilities. Ann Gatty hosts a website, www.stress-management-4-women.com, which offers stress management strategies, life skill development, and a means of finding your true passion in life. She has also authored Discovering God’s Recipe for a Healthy Body, Heart and Soul. Ann Gatty earned a Ph.D. in Instruction and Learning from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Education. She is married, the mother of two young adult boys, and shares her home with her husband, two Great Danes and a Bassett Hound.

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  1. Ann Report

    It is difficult to give some advice since we do not know the age of the child, whether this is normal rebellion against rules, whether there are negative influences of peers, if drugs or alcohol are involved or any other extenuating circumstances feeding into the problem. Often, a child will not listen to parents, but will listen to a close friend or pastor (youth director). You need to discover the real reason for the anger, and often what is being displayed is not the real cause. No matter how frustrating, a caring, loving and non-judgmental communication time can start to break down barriers. You can be suggestively directive without being judgmental, but that takes a lot of work and patience.

  2. Becky Dickson Report

    Dr. Gatty,
    How do you deal with the combination of unresolved anger and the lack of focus on anything past today? My daughter seems to think life is unfair, but at the same time erxudes a “entitlement” mentality that allows her not to look seriously at the consequences of poor choices and the potential long term harm they will have on her future plans. I have tried to point her to truth but know she is going to have to make her own choices and pay the consequences. As a parent, it is hard to watch your child go head long into a brick wall! She is not willing to receive truth or advice from her father andI. Instead, she seems bent on going the opposite direction of anything we believe or try to impart to her? I would be remissed to say I am anything but despondent. Please share any helpful information you may have. Thank you for your time. B Dickson



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