Self-Esteem in Teens

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

As you are standing and perhaps arguing with your teen, you may be wondering how this person “who knows everything” could possibly have low self-esteem. Well, how high the decibel level at which they are shouting all the answers, may be in direct proportion to how low their self-esteem is. As everyone knows, adolescence is a time of great change. Youth are maturing physically and emotionally, and their brains are not even yet fully developed. Peers take over from parents in terms of whose opinion matters more (although don’t underestimate the role YOU still play in your teen’s life). Youth often struggle with body image (yes…even boys), their looks, how they fit in, their future, and many begin to face decisions that would best be put off until they were adults (sexuality, drinking, etc). They are inundated with images from the TV, internet, magazines, and now their phones. These images are often unrealistic portrayals of their more celebrated peers.

So what can we do to help our children develop a positive self-esteem? Start early. Young children need to be reassured about what their strengths are, and that it’s also okay to be human and to have weaknesses and to make mistakes. It’s the positive manner in which we deal with our weaknesses and mistakes that can build self-esteem. Talk with your children when you see unrealistic images through the media. Ask them their opinion, and how they view those images. Check in with your children about how things are going at school or with their friends. Pay attention if they mention that they are being teased or put down, or if they start to put themselves down. Ask where those feelings are coming from. Don’t assume that all of these behaviors and remarks are just a part of “growing up”. If you feel that your child will better listen or take advice from another trusted adult or peer, then certainly try that route. If areas do not improve, or if you are starting to notice signs of depression, you may want to consult a professional.

Children are very fragile when it comes to their self-worth, especially teens, so be careful about any teasing, no matter how innocently you intend it. Also, check in with your own self-worth. Children can pick up on these things, and it may impact how they grow to view themselves.

So, the next time you are in a heated discussion with your teen, remember that he or she is probably (and painfully) aware that they do not know all of the answers, but at least want to feel worthy enough to be asked the questions.

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