The teenage years are a turbulent time filled with change and uncertainty. Teens today face immense pressure to succeed academically, socially, and physically. With social media and technology exposing teens to unrealistic standards, it’s no wonder many struggle with low self-esteem and mental health issues. Recent statistics from Denver, Colorado, paint a concerning picture:
Nearly one in three high school students feel depressed for two weeks in a row, causing them to halt their normal activities. Depression rates have risen from 25% in 2013 to 29.5% in 2015. LGBTQ teens are especially vulnerable – 46% have considered suicide in the past year, compared to 13.8% of heterosexual teens. Girls are more than twice as likely to report depression than boys (40% vs. 20%). Suicide rates have also increased, with nearly 8% of teens attempting suicide recently, up from 6.6% in 2013.
Given these alarming figures and recognizing the unique challenges of adolescence, as parents and caretakers, it’s our responsibility to help guide our teens through this difficult period and build their self-confidence. The teenage brain is still developing, so they need support and tools to nurture their mental health. Here are eight impactful ways we can help improve our teen’s self-esteem:
1. Seek professional support
Despite your efforts, low self-esteem can persist in your teenage kids, and if that is the case, consult your pediatrician or a mental health professional. The startling percentage of teens who are depressed emphasizes the critical role of early intervention. In such cases, teen counselors in Denver, Colorado, are valuable resources in addressing these challenges.
A therapist can help them work through inner critical thoughts via cognitive behavioral therapy. In some cases, anti-depressant medication may be warranted if depression significantly impacts their functioning. Just be patient, as progress takes time. And let your teen know needing help is brave and you’re there at every step.
2. Listen without judgment
Many teens feel misunderstood by parents who quickly judge or criticize them. This causes them to shut down and stop confiding in parents out of fear of disapproval. Set aside quality one-on-one time to actively listen to your teen’s thoughts and feelings. Give them your full attention without interrupting. Withhold any criticism or judgment, even if you disagree with their perspective.
Validate their emotions by saying things like “It makes complete sense you would feel that way” or “I understand why you’re upset.” This shows them their feelings are normal and accepted. Knowing you truly listen will encourage them to open up more, strengthening your connection.
3. Focus on their strengths
Teens tend to zero in on their shortcomings while overlooking their strengths. Shift their attention to what they excel at, no matter how small. Celebrate their academic accomplishments, athletic skills, musical talents, etc. Remind them of past successes they can draw confidence from.
For example, if they’re worried about an upcoming game, remind them of the last game where they contributed meaningfully. Keep track of their wins and milestones. Start a “brag book” recording their achievements. Write them encouraging notes highlighting their capabilities. This builds resilience for future challenges.
4. Encourage healthy habits
Lack of sleep, poor diet, and inactivity often worsen teen mood and self-image. Set a good example by modeling self-care in your own life. Make sure they get 8-10 hours of sleep every night. Involving them in preparing nutritious meals and snacks also helps.
Also, regular family fitness activities like evening walks or bike rides and even exercising with them reduce anxiety and release feel-good hormones or endorphins. Let them find physical activities they genuinely enjoy rather than what you prefer.
Social media exposes teens to filtered images portraying seemingly “perfect” people. This causes them to constantly compare themselves negatively. Although it may be difficult and cause rife, put your foot down as a parent and set boundaries around phone/internet use to give their self-worth a break. Enforce tech-free times like during meals, before bedtime, and outings. Make sure that they prioritize real-world social connections that make them feel accepted rather than following the herd mindlessly.
You can also follow their accounts to ensure they’re positive. Remind them that posts are carefully curated highlights, not real life.
6. Practice positive self-talk
Teens are their own worst critic. Help them reframe that negative self-talk into positive affirmations. When they insult themselves, gently ask them to talk to themselves the way they would a friend.
Guide them to counter those criticisms with realistic compliments. If they call themselves stupid for a minor mistake, remind them they’re actually intelligent, and everyone makes mistakes.
Also, model positive self-talk out loud so they learn by example. Say things like “I’m proud of myself for trying” or “I accept myself just as I am.” With time, they will adopt a more self-compassionate inner voice.
7. Surround them with positive peers
Peer relationships are hugely influential during the teen years. Ensure their friendships are mutually supportive and kind. Look out for “frenemies” who exclude or gossip about them. These toxic peers will undermine their self-worth.
Make sure to drop compliments for their close friends who bring out the best in them. Encouraging them to avoid peers who pressure them into risky behaviors or mistreat them will help them separate bad from good. Also, foster connections with those who share positive interests like sports, arts, or volunteering. Building a social circle that appreciates them boosts their self-confidence immensely.
8. Celebrate their uniqueness
Teens often feel pressured to conform to their peers. Reinforce what makes them special instead of trying to fit in. Compliment their distinctive talents, skills, personality traits, and quirks. Maybe they have a great sense of humor, artistic flair, or excellent work ethic. Help them identify their strengths so they can take pride in them.
Also, encourage them to embrace their true selves and support their diverse interests even if they’re unconventional. Make sure you don’t pressure them to follow the crowd or achieve “normal” milestones. Let them know the world needs people like them who think differently.
The teenage years are filled with vulnerability, so our teens need ample love, validation, and support. By implementing these methods, we can nurture their self-belief so they grow into capable, confident adults. Consistent encouragement helps them internalize their worth. Our words and actions as parents have an immense impact on shaping our teen’s self-image. With compassion and care, we can guide them to appreciate themselves and face life’s challenges with resilience.