Helping Teens Build Healthy Self Esteem

No matter what age you are your self-esteem acts as a buffer between you and the rest of the world.  You might even think of it as a kind of armor that protects you. In the simplest sense, self-esteem is our core belief about who we are and what we are capable of achieving.  While it fluctuates across a scale from healthy to unhealthy over the course of our lifetime, its foundation is established by our parents and other factors during our adolescence.

Having a healthy self esteem has a significant impact on our whole lives.  It can affect every area of our lives.  It dictates what we believe is possible, the goals we set out to achieve, and the relationships we have with others.  When people have low self-esteem, it limits them throughout their life.  It limits their employment options, the relationships they build with others, and their overall level of happiness.  It limits the opportunities available to them because their lack of belief in themselves and their abilities discourages them from trying to have more.  It can contribute to the creation of unhealthy relationships as an adult because low self esteem can make people feel like they do not deserve a better relationship or a better partner.

For this reason, parents can have a significant impact on how their children see themselves.  Parents can be instrumental in establishing the kind of foundation that can get them through the difficult times they will face throughout the teen years and into adulthood.   Here are some things that parents can do to help build up this foundation for a healthy self-esteem:

  • One of the most important factors in our self esteem comes from the way others react to us.  This means that the way parents react to their teens behaviors, opinions, and actions has a lasting impact on their self esteem.  The teen years can be very challenging for parents but praising twice as often as you criticize may be even more important with teens than with younger children.
  • Healthy self-esteem also comes from feeling a sense of belonging.  Parents can help children feel like they belong by showing through words and actions that they are loved, respected, and cared about.
  • Healthy self-esteem is reinforced by good experiences.  Parents who can create opportunities for their teens to do things on their own, to succeed, and even to stumble give them the environment they need to have these kind of experiences.
  • Parents should work at including teens in family responsibilities and even age appropriate decisions.  These activities foster healthy self-esteem.
  • Supporting teens in their school efforts and helping them however they need to be helped to become successful learners also makes a real difference in forming this all important foundation.
  • Developing healthy self-esteem comes from knowing that you are loved, that you are special, and that you are capable.  It doesn’t come from empty praise, never being challenged, and never coming in second.  It comes from genuine accomplishments and real expressions of love.

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