Ways Teens Can Develop a Healthy Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is how your child feels about himself, his abilities, and his value. These feelings develop over time as your child interacts with you and others. A child with a healthy self-esteem values himself as a person, trusts his feelings and abilities, believes he is capable of doing things well, and is able to work toward his goals.
Unfortunately, a lot of teens struggle with self-doubt. No one is born with confidence; it’s something that each of us must work on over time. Teens are vulnerable to self-doubt because their identity is just forming, and they face a lot of peer pressure. Signs that your teen is suffering from low self-esteem include: comparing himself to others, negative thinking about himself and/or self-critical statements, fearing to try new things or take on new opportunities, or believing that everyone is talking about him.
To combat self-doubt, your teen must develop a habit of encouraging himself, speaking positive thoughts about himself inside his mind, believing in his abilities, identifying what makes him special, and setting realistic goals. If your teen can develop these habits, it will help him to create a successful adulthood!
If your teen has significant self-esteem issues and seems depressed, you should seek professional help. However, if your teen suffers from the usual self-doubt of adolescence or needs an occasional pick-me-up, here are some suggestions for ways your teen can build their self-esteem:
- Make a brag bag. Give your teen a bag or box and tell him to put things in it that reflects his strengths or accomplishments, big or small. Anytime your teen feels good about himself or makes an achievement, he should place something in the bag that represents that moment or victory. Then, whenever your teen is feeling some self-doubt, encourage him to read through all the stuff in the bag for an instant pick-me-up! Ideas of things to write down and include in his bag are:
- praise or a compliment that someone – such as a teacher, coach, pastor, neighbor, or peer – gave your teen
- an award your teen receives
- a goal your teen achieves
- a big project your teen finished
- special recognition, such as being chosen for a solo in the choir or band or his art project being chosen to be displayed in school
- any action you noticed your teen take that was positive – perhaps helping a neighbor or handling a disappointment in a mature way
- Volunteer. Many times, when we give back to others, it gives us a whole new perspective on life and provides a new appreciation of ourselves. Find a homeless shelter, animal shelter, or other worthy cause that inspires your teen and encourage him to donate his time. He will feel good about helping those who are less fortunate!
- Encourage positive thinking. Teach your teen to monitor and control all of those negative thoughts that creep into his head. Thoughts like “I will never be able to…” or calling yourself names, such as fat, stupid, or failure, only deplete our confidence and do nothing to improve our life. Explain to your teen that how they think is a choice, and they can replace negative thinking with positive thoughts. You can learn more about this in our previous blog, How Your Teen Can Silence Their Inner Critic.
- Celebrate progress and small victories. Create a dynamic in your family where you celebrate everyone’s accomplishments, even the small ones. Get excited when your teen gets an A on a test (or a C if that is an improvement for him!) or gives a class speech despite being nervous. When you give credit where credit is due, you are role modeling appreciation to your children. Your teen will learn to appreciate their achievements, which builds confidence to tackle bigger and harder projects.
- Stop comparisons. Comparison kills confidence. Make sure that you are not comparing yourself to your friends or people in the media so that you are not role modeling this negative habit to your teen. When you hear your teen compare themselves to anyone, point out that we are only seeing a small part of others’ lives, and they have flaws and problems, too, that might not be obvious to us from the outside.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. As humans, we tend to focus more on our flaws. One of the best things a parent can do for their teen is to help them identify their strengths and see how they are special. If you can train your child to focus on their positive attributes and how their strengths can contribute to their future success, you will have a teen who feels quite a bit of self-respect.