The other day a parent was saying how their 15 year old had no self-esteem and the parent was at a loss on how to help. Trying to support your teen who is struggling with their self-worth and thoughts that they are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough, can feel like sand that just keeps slipping through your fingers. No matter what you do it seems, those self-defeating messages weight more on the scale of self-esteem.
Being a teen has ups and downs. There are moments when they may be feeling so aware and unsure of themselves and there are moments when they shine bright (or at least see glimmers). If you have a teen who is struggling with self-esteem (and didn’t we all as teens!) and you want to know how to support them, even if you’ve tried so many things already, check out the 7C’s:
Being part of something that helps build confidence gives teens a chance to practice, practice, practice. The more a teen can take risks in the sense of stretching themselves in their self-esteem and experiencing success (and some failure) the more progress they will make in the self-esteem department.
What does that look like? It could be being a part of a community group like cadets, girl guides, strong girls , or Glow groups. It could be participating in a boxing, martial arts, or soccer class. Find some things that your teen is interested in, even if it’s just a teeny bit at first, and give those opportunities a try.
Care For Parents
Don’t underestimate the need to care for yourself. It is hard to be a parent of a teen. You’ve got this! Make sure you have people and resources that empower you such as other parent-friends, on-line communities, parenting coaches, therapists, etc.
You don’t have to figure this all out on your own. There is something to be said about more heads are better than one. I have found over and over again that in conversations with other parents, I learn about resources and ideas that I may have never stumbled across in isolation.
Being part of something and feeling a sense of belonging is key to the human experience. It is particularly important to guide during childhood and into the teen years.
Volunteering and giving are incredible ways to build self-esteem and self-worth. Teens feel like they are part of something that makes a difference. It also grows their empathy, helps them gain some perspective on their own lives, learn new skills, and connect with others.
You can look for volunteering opportunities in your neighbourhood through your community center, through the school, through a local faith based community, or a local volunteer hub.
Constant Repetition of Affirmations
What we sow grows. Paying attention and shining some light on the positive qualities can help the brain start to notice those more. Humans have this thing called negativity bias, which evolved as a survival part of the brain. It notices the “bad”, the danger first over the “good” non-threatening stuff. This is great to keep us alive and protect us from danger… It’s not that great for our self-esteem.
A parent shared with me that they ask their teen to share 3 things they’ve done well that day and this strategy, although weird at first, has helped their teen’s self-esteem soar.
As a parent you can aim to notice, say or even write down the good things you observe that happen each day. Invite your teen to practice this as well.
Help your teen figure out what kind of coping skills and strategies work for them. Some strategies may change over time, while others will stand the test of time.
Consider self-care practices like things that help them feel good (e.g. being in nature, spending time with friends, reading, cooking some yummy food, etc.) Consider coping strategies for difficult moments (e.g. shape breathing, 5 senses exercise, using humour, talking to someone, etc.)
I have a free Mental Health Book for teens available with several different coping techniques your teen can try out for themselves. I can email you a copy! Sign up on my website to receive your copy.
Finally, consider hobbies. What kinds of things does your teen do or can they try that might build new skills, be fun, and provide an opportunity to flip the switch from feeling down to feeling happy? (E.g. cooking, painting, photography, sport, drawing, etc.)
Taking inventory on lifestyle can be a great way to find things to take action on right away towards building self-esteem. Consider things like what sleep is looking like, stress, nutrition, down time and exercise.
It doesn’t need to be an overhaul, but try targeting one of these areas together and making small, achievable changes that will make a real difference. I started adding more fruits and veggies to each meal instead of processed sugars and it significantly changed my moods. Try checking out some of these resources:
Being able to effectively communicate builds self-esteem and confidence. If your teen struggles to express themselves, whether that’s to talk to new people, ask for help, advocate at school, or manage conflict with peers and family members, this is probably an indicator of self-esteem issues. Modeling communication skills can be a good place to start.
Child Mind Institute writes about communicating with your teen and shares some great tips like validating their feelings, showing trust, and tuning in to your own emotions as ways to have a healthy and trusting parent-teen relationship.
Another part of communication is supporting your teens to become more confident and more capable in their communication. Check out my blog on bullying that covers a piece on building assertiveness skills.
Empowering your teen to take action to building their self-esteem and confidence will pay off in dividends as they navigate the ups and downs of this time in their lives. In your supportive and loving way, you will benefit from that heartwarming feeling as you see their self-esteem improve.
If you want to talk more about supporting your teen with their self-esteem, reach out to me for your free 20 minute consultation call 403.812.1716
Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.
Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.
Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.