Expert / 5 March, 2024 / My Baba

How To Encourage Your Teenager’s Self-Esteem Without Embarrassing Them

Parenting teenagers has always been challenging, but in today’s digital age with the complexities of social media, it has become very much harder, often impacting teenager’s self-esteem.

Unlike previous generations, today’s teenagers are constantly connected to online platforms where they are bombarded with curated images of perfection, unrealistic standards, and constant
comparison.

The pressure to fit in and gain validation through likes and comments is taking a significant toll on every teenager’s self-esteem and mental well-being, leaving parents struggling to know what to do or what to say.

To begin with, it’s good to understand the difference between confidence and self-esteem.

Confidence is having the belief that you can succeed at something. It’s possible to be confident about one area of your life and less confident about another. For example: ‘I’m confident that I can bake a good cake but I’m not at all confident about speaking on stage’.

Your sense of self-esteem, on the other hand, is related to a broad sense of personal value or self-worth. It’s not a quality that changes very much as it’s more about how you see yourself as a person in general, rather than your ability to specifically do something.

Developing a good sense of self-esteem or self-worth in your formative years is important as it can protect you against all sorts of mental health challenges later on in life. If deep down you have a strong sense of who and what you are, then the day-to-day problems of life will be easier to cope with.

Here are some effective strategies that parents can adopt to help their teenager’s self-esteem.

Expressing emotions

Talking about our feelings helps us to feel close to the people around us and to feel better, but it’s not always easy to put emotions into words because it’s a fairly abstract concept. Recognising when you’re feeling sad, lonely, scared, or excited takes a bit of practice.

Parents can help by reflecting back to their teenager using phrases such as: ‘I can see you’re feeling cross your homework is taking so long’ or ‘I can see you’re disappointed that your friend can’t make the cinema outing’.

Remember to point out positive feelings too: ‘You look really happy now that exams are over’ and ‘I can see you’re really excited to be going to the concert’.

This will teach teenagers how to put feelings into words and when they feel heard and understood, they are more likely to develop a positive self-image.

Family meetings

Today’s technology often means every person in the house has their own device so it’s easy to lose sight of each other despite living under the same roof.

Holding regular family meetings will help to create stronger bonds between you all and inoculate your teenager from difficulties and challenges they encounter in daily life.

Not only can you discuss problems and issues that might be surfacing, but problem-solve and make plans for the future too.

It’s also an opportunity for your teenager to get a sense of your family’s values – a bit like having a brand story – and when they feel they are a part of something bigger and belong to a strong group, it will give a sense of security and comfort.

Focus on Strengths and Achievements

Today’s teenagers are no longer competing with just the other children in their class at school, but all those on the world wide web too.

So it’s even more important for parents to highlight strengths and accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. As well as academic and sporting achievements, make a point of noticing things such as taking good care of a pet, showing kindness to an elderly relative, and compassion to a friend in need.

Promote self-care practices

Teach your teenager the importance of looking after themselves by encouraging healthy habits that nurture their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. These could be as simple as a walk outside in the fresh air or taking a leisurely bath, as well as mindfulness activities such as meditation or journaling. By prioritising self-care, teenagers learn to be kind to themselves, respect their bodies and develop coping mechanisms to manage stress effectively.

Foster a Positive Body Image

In a world inundated with unrealistic beauty standards and social media influence, teenagers often struggle with body image issues. Parents can encourage them to focus on what their body can do, rather than on how it looks – and promoting the importance of self-care over appearance will help with this too. We are all different and comparisons with others do not serve us well.

Building and nurturing a teenager’s self-esteem doesn’t happen overnight, but is more of an ongoing process that requires patience, empathy, and support from parents. Incorporating a few good practices into your family’s routine and sticking to them consistently makes it more likely your teenager will develop a strong sense of self-worth and confidence that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Article written by Alicia Eaton, a Harley Street-based psychotherapist specialising in children’s emotional wellbeing and behaviour change, and author of ‘First Aid for your Child’s Mind’.

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