Teen self-esteem is very fragile and it doesn’t take much to damage it. If your teen feels he or she is significantly different than their peers or that they don’t fit in, their self-esteem will falter. The teen years are challenging and difficult and teens are often full of self-doubt. It is during this time that any harsh or critical words you say may be blown out of proportion and taken to heart.
Self-esteem refers to a person’s opinion of themselves. It is your own belief about how loveable and capable you are. For a teen struggling with hormone changes and confusion, their self-esteem is easily damaged by any perceived rejection by peers or adults. Frequently they compare themselves to others and think they fall short. No matter where their strengths are, many teens focus on their weaknesses. For example, a straight A student may dwell on not doing well athletically.
A very pretty teen girl may dwell on falling short academically.
The struggle to learn who they are and accept themselves can be overwhelming at best. Even though you want to be supportive, teens may go out of their way to distance themselves from their parents, locking themselves in their rooms listening to loud music, talking on the phone for hours, surrounding themselves with friends. As a parent, you may feel the opportunities to help your teen
have already passed.
Not true. Even when your teen appears not to be listening to you, they are hearing at least some of what you’re saying. That’s why criticism heard at this age can be so damaging. Sooner or later there will be opportunities to interact with your teen. Whenever you can, find a way to squeeze in words of praise or encouragement. Give an unexpected hug from time to time. A reassuring smile can be comforting; so can just knowing you are available to talk when they are ready.
Take an active role in your teen’s life as much as you can. Have an awareness of who their friends are and what their interests are. Pay attention to sudden signs that your teen is not okay, such as weight loss or gain, sleeping all the time, or neglecting personal appearance. If your teen has always been actively involved in sports, for example, and suddenly doesn’t want anything to do with participating, it may signal a deeper problem, such as alcohol or drugs or eating disorders. Inappropriate coping mechanisms can lead a teen into a lot of trouble, and it often all begins with low self-esteem. If you think your teen is in serious trouble, ask for help from a family doctor or school counselor.
Stay alert to every opportunity to help improve teen self-esteem. Let your teen know often that you think they are a person of high value and worth. Acknowledge their successes, big and small. Encourage them to talk to you about whatever is going on in their lives.
Set an example of good self-esteem by treating yourself with respect. Any habits you are developing to work on your self-esteem such as journaling or affirmations can be shared with your teen. Developing good self-esteem habits at a young age can make a huge difference in your teen’s life.