Sunday, October 23, 2016

Raising Your Teen's Self-Esteem

by Katie K. May
You’re a concerned parent who has a teen with low self-esteem.
 You want your teen to feel confident enough to resist peer pressure.
 It breaks your heart to hear them make such negative comments about themselves when they look in the mirror.
 And, It’s painful to watch them fret over each blemish on their face and compare their bodies to those of their friends.
 You’re so afraid that they actually believe the critical thoughts they have about themselves and wonder how that will impact them.
 … will they give into peer pressure?
… will they make healthy choices or act impulsively to feel better in the moment?
… will today be a “good” day or a “bad” day and how will you manage the emotional roller coaster?
 If you’ve been telling your teen that they’re perfect and pouring on the compliments, you know that this just doesn’t work to change how your teen feels on the INSIDE.  What’s more, it may backfire and make them feel even worse. 
 Learn how to help your teen improve their self-esteem by focusing on the strengths that they already have!  Try my top three techniques for improving teen self-esteem here:
Help your teen do something that makes them feel confident each day.  Maybe this means playing a sport, but maybe it means reading a book.  Tune in to what your child’s strengths are and then encourage them to partake in activities that highlight these strengths.  In this way, your teens are gaining the experience of feeling confident in some way each day.
Help your teen reflect on what went well in each day.  Often times we ruminate on what went wrong and play it over and over again in our minds.  When you can help your teen begin to see what they are doing right in a day, it can rewrite that story.  What’s more, when you help them see how their specific actions helped to create these positive experience, it empowers them to continue to make positive choices that improve self-esteem.
Focus on the process and not the outcome.  Be mindful of how you talk to your teen about success and begin to really listen to how they talk about themselves in front of you.  Challenge any thoughts that are uttered aloud like, “I’m a mess” or “I can’t do it.”  Help them see that while they may not be able to meet a bigger goal YET, that when broken down into smaller steps while highlighting the progress, that they are capable of getting to where they want to be.
And, because it takes a village to support a family, try these tips from other amazing and skilled therapists in our community…
As a play therapist and creative counselor for teens, Elizabeth Campbell recommends finding the balance between independence and support to help build self-esteem.  "Adolescence is a time when teens are developing both independence and their concept of their identity, so it is very important for parents to support these in healthy ways! One option is for parents to recognize and reflect character qualities of their child rather than achievement," she says, "Another way is to toe the line of granting kids space to figure things out on their own while still maintaining appropriate boundaries. This helps teens to achieve a sense of self-efficacy in their efforts."
Jen Perry, therapist and Peaceful Parenting coach and shares her top tip for parents to, "Begin teaching their teen (and themselves!) about the connection between our basic human needs and our emotions. Negative emotions most often arise from basic needs for health, connection, and meaning not getting met. A sense of self-mastery and self-esteem naturally arises when we can train ourselves to identify the unmet need, meet the negative emotion with self-compassion and empathy, and take concrete steps to get the need met. This life skill can also be applied to relationships with others which can help teens begin to take things less personally in relationships and become skillful in helping others meet their needs as well. “Helping your teen look inward and be more aware of what they need in the moment, as well as joining with them to communicate this need can improve self-esteem and the parent child relationship.  
Finally, Clinical Social Worker, Kim Vargas reminds parents to point out the positives each day. "Self doubt and difficulty seeing positive aspects of self are hallmarks of the teen years. As a parent, you are in the unique position to boost your child's self esteem by being the storehouse of their positive traits and actions. At least once each day, try to point out a positive trait your teenager has, and a specific behavior you observed that day to support the trait. For example, mention to your teen that she has always been a generous person, and then note how she offered to come over to help her grandma fix her email problems."  By sharing what's going well, you can help your teen accumulate self-esteem day by day.

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