The importance of adolescent self-esteem can’t be overemphasized. Probably the most important developmental task of adolescence is to answer the question “Who am I?” It is during this time that an adolescent will ask himself, “Am I okay?”, “Am I important?” “Am I special?”
Their self-esteem is influenced by parents, teachers and friends. There is no one factor that can be credited or blamed for good self-esteem or lack of self-esteem. Factors blend together and lead the adolescent to form an opinion of himself. This opinion may vary from day to day.
Extremes in parenting may bring down adolescent self-esteem, meaning parents who are overly permissive can hurt a teen’s self esteem, but so can parents who are particularly restrictive and non-supportive. The most important message for a parent to communicate is love and acceptance of their adolescent, as well as treating the child with respect.
Parents have a significant but not exclusive influence on adolescent self-esteem. Teachers and other significant adults can affect a child’s self-esteem by favoring certain students. If a student keeps getting the message that approval isn’t possible, self-esteem will falter. Particularly damaging are teachers that ridicule a child who doesn’t excel in a particular area, whether that area is sports or academics.
Probably the most important influence on adolescent self-esteem is peers. It is so important to most adolescents to be accepted by other teens. If an adolescent feels consistently rejected – not picked for the team, not included in social activities – depression or inappropriate coping skills, such as drug and alcohol abuse may follow.
The media contributes to the feeling that the adolescent may be having that she is not okay. The perfection portrayed on TV in adolescents is unrealistic, but may make the average teen feel inadequate.
Most adults can remember the turbulence and discomfort of teenage angst. For most teens, adolescence is a difficult time that will pass. Adolescents must go through the struggles to get to the other side. Part of growing into an adult is learning that being imperfect is okay, and that you are supposed to be unique. You aren’t supposed to be the same as everyone else, and being rejected for differences will become less important as you grow older.
One way for an adolescent to raise self-esteem is by taking on responsibility, whether it is a part-time job or household chores. Being able to prove to themselves that they can successfully accomplish something is a great way to raise self-respect. Another self-esteem booster at this age is being allowed to share in the decision-making process whenever possible.
Remove the stigma of failure from any adolescent in your life. The only true failure is to quit. Share your own mistakes and disappointments with adolescents. Mistakes are stepping stones, nothing more and nothing less. Things aren’t as important as they may seem. The only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world.
If there is an adolescent in your life, make sure you continue to work on your own self-esteem and serve as a positive role model. Give positive feedback and encouragement whenever possible. Be available to listen to the best of your ability.
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