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Ask a Teen

How to Boost Your Teen's Self Esteem

Suggestions Straight from Kids

July 01, 2010
Have you ever heard of the saying, "only you can make yourself happy?" As hard as it seems to hear that—it's true. Many teens in the United States have a problem with self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem is a child's armor against the challenges of the world. Teens who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more and are more optimistic than other teens who might be struggling. And although it seems parents are the main influence in a teen's life and how they see themselves, this can be good, but it can also be bad. Teens with low self-esteem can find everyday challenges to be sources of major anxiety and frustration. Understanding teens from their point of view can be very difficult, but it may also prove helpful in encouraging positive self-esteem.

Gabbie B., 10th grader, said that she believes that most of self-esteem issues stem from parental influence. When a parent looks down upon them it can turn into a life-long battle of self-esteem issues. Colleen S. and Hanna J., 11th grade, both said that if parents we're more understanding they wouldn't constantly feel at fault or feel bad about themselves. By being more lenient and understanding, parents could help boost their self-esteem through trust, compassion and confidence-boosting activities. Parents are the first line of defense in combating negative self-image.

After discussing with dozens of teens about what parents can do to increase their teen's self-esteem, they came up with a list of ten actions that parents could take to help boost their self-esteem.

1: Lexi S., 9th grade, said that if parents would just accept how their teen is, then their self-esteem wouldn't be a main problem. Scott P. Sells writes in Parenting Your Out of Control Teenager that if you use all of your energy to change your teen's personal identity, "you may win these battles but lose the war on bigger issues like drugs, alcohol, skipping school and curfew violations."

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2: Monica L., 11th grade, thinks that parents shouldn't be such workaholics and put so much focus on money. Doing so takes away from family time and activities that could be used to enhance your teen's positive self-image. Sells also writes that it's important to get reacquainted with one another, find activities that have meaning for both of you and help build your teen up from the inside out.

3: Marcus N., 10th grade, wants parents to interact more with their teen's life. Take a genuine interest in what's going on within their lives. Ask questions and if they can't answer it, give them time to think about how to answer. Pay attention to timing and environment and remain open with them. You accomplish nothing by asking nothing.

4: Jenna K., 10th grade, says that by encouraging their teen to do what they are good at, could make them feel good about themselves. Bottom line: encouragement translates into self-esteem.

5: Georgia L., 9th grade, says that parents should attend social events that support the teens. Work and life often gets in the way of being able to attend every event that your child participates in. However, even though they may never tell you, your support in presence is a huge dose of self-esteem every time you're there.

6: Ally M., 11th grade, thinks teens could use more compliments. HealthyChildren.org's Dr. Adele Hofmann notes that "We don't tell our children often enough what they did right." So hand out the compliments even if there's a loss involved, make it sincere (kids do have a radar for knowing when you're just being a mom/dad) and show them why they should be proud of who they are.

7: Courtney M., 12th grade, says parents could reward their teen when they accomplish things. Rewarding accomplishments happens throughout our entire lives: Raises, promotions, certificates, bonuses, etc. Why not encourage goals and reward positive behaviors, accomplishments and hurdles? Not only will you inspire them to keep doing it, you'll boost self-esteem, too.

8: Dennis M., 10th grade, thinks that parents should push their teens to be involved in positive groups. Parents might get overwhelmed with the number of groups their teen is involved in, but social involvement and team building are both positive influences on self-esteem—plus they look good on a college application.

9: Kris H., 8th grade, thinks that teens would feel better by being treated like a young adult. While being treated older, they would feel older and better about how they are. We don't want our children to grow up too fast or give limitless boundaries, but as teens mature, as pointed out by Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP, you need to avoid lecturing, nagging and guilt trips. Never break their confidence. Always accept feelings, apologize, increase autonomy, respect privacy, be a good listener and refrain from the bullet train of questions. They're growing up and it's important that parents adapt.

10: Meredith K., 12th grade, said that the most important thing to help boost your teen's esteem is being loved the way they are. Your teen is constantly exploring who he wants to be—accept it. While you can encourage positive behavior, your child is trying on different identities and it's important to love them for who they are. No matter what color their hair is, how weird the clothes might be or who they love, they're still your child and unconditional love goes a long way at boosting self-esteem.

While hearing teens discuss parents' failing the self-esteem test may be difficult to hear, it will make a huge difference in your teen's life knowing that you want to help them feel better about themselves. At publicschool.com, professionals talk about how teens have low self-esteem because parents lack giving their teens motivation. The biggest buffer of low self-esteem is to give them attention and motivation to do the right thing.

A teenager's life may seem like a huge struggle—we face many problems and obstacles that weren't around when our parents were teenagers—but many are still the same: Dealing with school, problems with friends and keeping close with the family. We might not say it, but we need help keeping our self-esteem high! Having our parents in our life can make a huge difference in the way that we handle the problems we face. Just like you put bandaids on our knees when we were little, you can do the same thing for our self-esteem as teenagers.

Abbie Klingsmith is 16 years old and wants to go to IU and become a pediatrician. She enjoys cheerleading and playing softball throughout the year.

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Tags: Parenting, Tweens & Teens

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