My teens are probably sick of hearing this, but I often say to them, “Stay in your own lane, kid. Your car was built for that. Let the other cars drive in their lanes and you stick to yours. You’ve got a long, wonderful, and exciting road ahead.”
I say it so often, because I want them to take these words to heart and carry them with them. It’s my way of sending them out into the world with an invisible shield.
Because I see how hard the world today can be on our tweens and teens. The pressures are fierce and unrelenting.
And with all the technology and social media and even the TV shows that are popular among teens, it’s so much easier for our young adults to get caught up in the comparison trap.
This is only further intensified as our kids move into the teens years and their peers become a far greater influence on how they view themselves. Unfortunately, the natural effect on their self-worth is rarely positive.
Comparison can be at the root of our tweens and teens low self-esteem
It can also contribute to high levels of anxiety, depression and stress.
If you listen closely to your kids talk about themselves and everything else going on in their world, you will notice they are often comparing themselves to others.
This affects how they feel about themselves, as it is often used to measure their appearance, their performance, and even their potential.
Comparison is the base of our kids’ opinions about pretty much everything.
“I can’t believe Lilly got an A when she didn’t study as much as I did and I got a B!”
“Luke runs so much faster than me every time we have practice. He’s always in the top five and I’m always in the second group.”
“I wish I was thin like Ellie. It’s not fair. She eats junk all the time!”
“How could I have scored just above the state average! I should have been in the advanced group.”
“I probably won’t make the team because there are so many other athletes that are better than me.”
“Kate is so popular. She has so many more friends than me.”
Comparison oozes into every little detail of our kids’ lives and defines and directs their steps.
So how do we help our kids understand the ill-effects comparison can have on their mental health and well-being?
How can we change their way of thinking so there are less likely to get caught up in the comparison trap?
It isn’t easy, that’s for sure. I know even as an adult, I see how I can be guilty of it myself. But the earlier we teach our tweens and teens how to identify the triggers and then employ coping mechanisms, the more resilient they will become.
Here are a few tips that you can use as a parent to
How to help your tween or teen avoid the comparison trap.
Every time your tween or teen compares themselves to others, point it out to them. Comparison is an automatic lens our kids use for pretty much everything, so we need to help them realize comparison is misleading filter that often warps their view.
Your teen may not be aware of how much they do this. Teach your sons and daughters how to tune into their thinking and catch it when they start comparing themselves to others so they can be vigilant in noticing this habit. The first step is tracking how often they fall into the trap.
Understanding The Impact on Self-Esteem
When your tween or teen compares themself to someone else, help them recognize the negative feelings this brings up about. Discuss how focusing on others can damage our own view of ourselves because comparison often results in disappointment.
If we are constantly using comparison to gage on our own success, then we will struggle to find our own true worth and our own potential because we expect to be like someone else. Comparison looks at others to evaluate our worth instead of the more useful view: Looking directly at ourselves.
Strengthen Their Own Sense Of Self-Worth
As our tweens and teens are defining their identity, discovering their desires, and developing their dreams for their life, we can remind them that they were born with a unique design that solely belongs to them. Discuss how each one of us was born with specific gifts, strengths, weaknesses, and potential.
Empower your kids with this truth and help them realize how special they are apart from anyone else. When they compare themselves to others, it’s a futile pursuit. It’s irrelevant. A waste of time. Because every one of us was created differently and each one of us will build our own path and purpose.
Identify What Makes Them Special
It’s important our kids discover their specific strengths so they can be reminded of these assets often. What are they naturally good at doing? What are they passionate about? What physical features stand out?
Encourage your child to develop and embrace those gifts and support their efforts in pursuing interests and skills in those areas. The more our kids can cultivate their own intrinsic abilities and develop their own appreciation for who they are, the less they will fall into the comparison trap.
Set Healthy Limits On Social Media
It’s a reality, the more time our tweens and teens spend on social media the more likely they are to be comparing themselves to the constant flow of images on their screens. This is why our kids are struggling so much with low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.
We can’t fight the fact that technology is crucial to this generation’s life and friendships. It’s often how they connect and communicate. But we can give them tools to manage it all in healthier ways. One in particular is putting limits on the amount of time they spend scrolling on their phones and other devices. Set bedtimes, keep their cell phones away from family meals and make sure they are balancing their time spent online with other activities.
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