July 17, 2014 —

Between maintaining academics, hobbies, friendships and parental approval, teens are constantly overwhelmed by the pressure to figure out their own personal identities while also trying to determine where exactly they fit in. This constant anxiety and desire for approval can take a toll on your teen’s self-esteem. In fact, teens with low self-esteem are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as underage drinking or over-the-counter cough medicine abuse, as a way to de-stress and get temporary relief from their anxieties.

As parents, it’s our job to assist with our teen’s self-esteem management. We need to ensure our teens have a healthy self-image and can fully comprehend their own self-worth by providing positive guidance and reinforcement. Teens with healthy self-esteem are more likely to have the confidence to be able to resist succumbing to negative peer pressure. This is especially important during the summer months when teens typically have more free time available and tend to spend a lot of that time with their peers.

Here are three ways you can help your teen gain and maintain healthy self-esteem:

  1. Help your teen find his or her niche. Encourage your teen to explore his or her interests by joining clubs and organizations that will provide consistent opportunities for self-expression. Such activities can be outlets for stress and anxiety relief while simultaneously building confidence. Increased positive interactions with peers will make your teen less likely to choose to engage in risky behaviors for the sake of wanting to feel a sense of belonging. 
  2. Acknowledge your teen’s increasing independence. In order for teens to become more comfortable with themselves and grow in confidence, they need to have the chance to tackle obstacles and challenges on their own. Your job is to help your teen be able to help him or herself. Whether its pushing his or her curfew back an hour later or letting your teen drive him or herself to school, identify where it may be appropriate to loosen up on the reins on your teen’s life. Allowing increased freedom shows that you trust your teen and are confident in his or her ability to navigate obstacles. If your teen knows that you believe in him or her, your teen will be more likely to believe in him or herself.
  3. Prepare your teen for adversity. As great and capable as we know our teens can be, rejection and failure is unfortunately inevitable. If your teen is ill-prepared to handle adversity, it can be extremely detrimental to his or her self-esteem. Let your teen know that he or she shouldn’t take rejection personally. Failure is not always a result of one’s own shortcomings, but rather a result of circumstance. Encourage your teen to always remain open-minded when things don’t go as planned and to have a plan b whenever possible. Make sure your teen knows that he or she can always come to you if needed to vent about current frustrations. And finally, remind your teen that you are always available to help him or her figure out how to best navigate situations.

Self-esteem is an important aspect of your teen’s personal development and growth. When your teen has the ability to see his or her own self-worth and value, your teen will be more likely to choose to engage in positive, healthy and safe activities. Do you have any other ideas to help your teen build healthy self-esteem? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments below!