Teens deal with a lot in day-to-day life, and despite the pseudo-brave front they put up, many struggle with self-confidence. Even if your teen seems self-assured, make sure you take steps to bolster his sense of self while avoiding the most common confidence killers.
Rejection never feels good, regardless of its source. Teens are at an age when they’re trying to figure out who they are and where they fit, and perceived rejection can create deep wounds. Dr. Fran Walfish, child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, points out the following common rejection situations:
- Rejection by friends/peers
- Humiliation by a teacher in front of the class
- Parental criticism or angry attack
- Rejection by a boyfriend or girlfriend
“Be kind to your kids. How you treat your children sets the model for how they will treat themselves. Build self-esteem by using words that support and motivate, rather than criticize,” she advises.
As much as you teach that your teen’s internal qualities are the most important part of who he is, the fact remains: Kids can be cruel. If something about your child’s appearance can be addressed easily to prevent teasing, look into options to do so. Two common areas that may cause your teen undue stress regarding his looks include misaligned teeth and acne. Mark Minium, a central Pennsylvania orthodontist, says, “In today’s aesthetically-conscious society, crooked teeth can lead to an increase in psychological stress, embarrassment, insecurity and, even in today’s world, bullying. No one wants to be called ‘bucktooth’ at any age.”
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Dr. Janell Dietz, school counselor and author of Motivation to Sensation, agrees. “Common self-esteem killers often involve thoughts of self-doubt, especially when it comes to appearance,” she says. Praise your child’s personal appearance while also giving her the tools she needs to look her personal best.
The teenage years are vitally important for learning new skills and becoming more confident and independent. When teens are faced with controlling relationships, their ability to develop this sense of self is diminished. Controlling relationships come in all shapes and forms. A bully at school, for example could be controlling your teen’s ability to feel safe while walking the halls, or your teen may become involved in a controlling romantic relationship marked by subtle putdowns and poor treatment. While parents should be ever-conscious of these, they should realize that constant parental hovering can be similarly detrimental. Licensed marriage and family therapist Jon Pease explains, “Parents who hover and don’t let kids make mistakes and find healthy solutions (so called ‘helicopter parents’) can really mess with a kid’s sense of self.”
Take a moment to look at your relationship with your teen and see where you can relinquish a bit of control. This doesn’t mean you don’t set boundaries and expectations; it means that you allow your teen to explore the world and try new things, even if you’re scared she might fail.
More on teens & self-esteem
5 Steps to boosting your daughter’s self-esteem
How do I prevent my low self-esteem from influencing my daughter?
5 Ways moms can help girls be themselves
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