Managing your teen’s self-esteem can be tricky.
Teens live in an in-between world; they’re neither children nor adults. They’re adjusting to both physical and mental changes, including emotional extremes caused by additional activity in the part of the brain that regulates emotions.
Along with the normal confusion of puberty, teens often suffer from low self-esteem. This results from of a myriad of complex issues such as peer pressure/toxic friendships, social media, academic challenges, bullying/loneliness, stressful life situations, mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, and at times, unsupportive or absent parents.
Add the additional weight of global problems, and many teens struggle with their self-worth.
Needless to say, for many teenagers, adolescence is a confusing time!
Females are more prone to self-esteem issues, particularly as it relates to body image, and often get more attention for the problem, but males are also susceptible. In fact, any teen is vulnerable to self-esteem challenges.
As parents and involved adults, it’s our responsibility to help teens foster healthy self-esteem. It’s an ongoing process and there are no shortcuts. Teens need constant reminders that they’re great kids and we’re proud of them.
What Are the Signs of Low Self-Esteem in Teens?
It can be difficult to discern the difference between a moody adolescent and a teenager suffering from a poor self-image that is impacting their daily life. Here are some symptoms and personality characteristics to help you identify if your teen is dealing with low self-esteem.
- Avoiding new things or not taking advantage of opportunities
- An abundance of negative self-talk
- Constantly comparing themselves to others
- Unable to manage frustrations or shake negativity off from others
- Pronounced fear of failure, embarrassment, or looking dumb
- Difficulty making friends or relating to peers
- Low or no motivation to complete tasks or interest in activities or hobbies
- Unable to accept compliments, and often puts themself down in front of others
- Constantly seeking approval from peers or others
The good news is that there are ways parents and caregivers can help boost a teen’s self-esteem and quash those negative thoughts, but as always, if you think your child is dealing with mental health issues or it is more than just normal teen anxiety, you should seek out a professional therapist.
How Do You Help a Teenager with Low Self Esteem?
Positive self-esteem for teens is essential as it gives them the confidence to try new things, take healthy risks, and problem solve. After all, we all want to raise happy, productive adults who know how to manage in today’s complex world.
Here are six helpful tips for how to help a teenager with low self esteem:
1. Stay available. While your teen may not want to talk to you, make sure they know you’re available if they change their mind. Sometimes just knowing you’re there for them makes a difference.
An important thing to keep in mind: part of talking with a teen is actively listening. Teens with self-esteem issues often feel that no one listens to them or cares about what they have to say. Show them you’re listening by letting them finish and then asking questions about what they said.
2. Encourage your teen to live a healthy lifestyle. Problems can often manifest when teens are couch potatoes or have unhealthy eating habits. When a teen eats a well-balanced diet and gets a regular amount of exercise, it’s easier to feel better and maintain self-confidence.
If you feel your teen’s attitude has changed significantly or they lose interest in things they once loved, schedule them for a complete check-up with your doctor. Your primary health care provider can rule out any physical causes for your teen’s struggles. They may also recommend additional steps or counseling that can help.
3. Encourage your teen to get involved in an activity they enjoy. It could be any activity, club, or organization. Getting them involved in something will help them realize they’re more normal than they think! It also could help them find some self-confidence and teach them how to self-advocate.
Encourage their individuality and interests by letting them pick the activity. Young people need to develop their sense of self, so give them the freedom to find their interests and passions. Make sure you praise their efforts and any positive changes you see in them to keep building their self-esteem. Remember, it’s not about you!
4. Set a positive example for your teen. No matter how distant your teen may seem, parents are still their most important role models and watch your behaviors closely. If they see you have self-esteem problems, they may mimic that. If they observe you using unhealthy coping strategies (poor boundaries, drugs/alcohol, etc.), they may choose similar unhealthy coping skills. Set an example with a positive attitude towards yourself and others, and model confidence whenever you can.
5. Help your teen set goals and celebrate when they reach them. Resilience is often an issue for teens who deal with low self-esteem, but it is a key component of a happy life. Start with small goals that they can achieve in a short period of time. When they reach the goal, celebrate and encourage them to take pride in their accomplishments. If it takes longer to reach their goal, keep encouraging them.
Remind them that taking definitive action to achieve their goal is just as important as reaching it. Also, let your teen know that it’s okay to change their goal along the way. This is the way of life, and an essential skill teens need to learn as they reach adulthood. When circumstances change, we may need to re-adjust our plans. If your teen understands this, it will help build their confidence.
6. Let your teen know you’re proud of them. When they score an A, tell them how great they did. If they get a C, it’s just as important that your teen knows you’re proud of that grade. Encourage them to do their best (no matter the outcome) and be proud of them when they do. A teen’s inner criticism can often diminish their effort, so parents must constantly remind their children that they are worthy regardless of a grade, making the team, or getting into the college.
Dealing with a Teen’s Self-Esteem is a Delicate Balance
A teen’s self-esteem can be fragile. It’s important to remember that the time you spent building your teen’s self-esteem can be torn down by someone else in one moment.
Teach your teen that learning to deal with disappointment, criticism, and challenges is an important life skill. Talk to your teen about how important it is to know they’re still a great person worthy of love and affection, no matter what life may throw their way.
As with anyone, teens will have good and bad days. Never be discouraged or give up on them. Follow these strategies and soon enough, you’ll know that you’re on the right path. Your teen will go through mood swings, but with time and love, they’ll emerge as a strong and confident adult.
If you’re looking for another resource to help you parent through these challenging and emotional teen years, we recommend The Emotional Lives of Teenagers by Lisa Damour.
Parenting Teens and Tweens is tough, but you don’t have to do it alone. Here are some posts that other parents found helpful.
*This post may contain affiliate links where we earn a small commission for purchases made from our site.