6 Tips on How to Nurture Your Teens Self Esteem Today

Teen, Counseling, Grand Rapids

Parenting a teenager is not an easy task. Minute by minute, emotions can vary and moods can shift. Often times, you feel you are on egg shells on what to say or do next. All you know is that the child you love and have watched grow over the years appears to be hurting and you feel you are at the end of your rope despite all you try to do to help them. Teens, now more than ever, are facing day to day stressors to be so many things. The world around them is fast paced and unkind at times and though you desperately wish to shelter them from pain, they are going to experience things you can’t always shield. So, what’s a parent to do?

Often times, we forget that we are at an advantage by simply sharing space and a home with our teen. This allows us countless opportunities to create an environment that is enriched with encouragement and praise, just as well as boundaries and clear expectations. ALL of us have days where we hurt our teens egos as the world can be just as unkind and downright impossible for parents some days, too. After all, we are human! The following are 6 ways you can instill practices in your home to nourish healthy self-image:

1. Focus on What is Going WELL.

What are the things your teen is doing right? From grades to chores to following rules, it can be easy to bring up the things that aren’t going well. We want our kids to be successful, so sometimes we become hyper focused on the expectations and forget that they can get overwhelmed, also. While it is true that some teens accept praise more so than others, there is a happy medium to communicating effectively with yours. Whether that’s subtle Atta boys or physical gestures (smiles, taps on the back), let them know you DO NOTICE when they make positive choices! Concentrating on accomplishments rather than failures will do wonders for your relationship.

2. Seek Out Your Teens Opinions

As the adults in the home, we have so many decisions to make, from what’s for dinner to how to manage finances, there is no end to the whirlwind that clouds our minds. Remember that your teen, while they are the “child” in the home, still has a voice and needs to be heard. Adolescents appreciate being considered, they love to feel grown up! What if you asked them their thoughts on the family vacation spot, restaurant to go to for dinner or the new furniture for the living room? Take time to hear them out when they have suggestions that involve your home or family. Big or small, valuing someone’s views goes a long way.

3. Constructive Feedback vs. Criticism

Pause for just a moment and picture a conversation you are about to have with your boss regarding an error made on your behalf: would you rather your boss make accusatory statements regarding your mistake, or address you in an understanding, less threatening tone? Let’s think about an example that involves your teen failing a test: “I don’t understand how you could’ve let this happen, didn’t you study at all?” vs. “This must’ve been a tough test. I know with a little extra studying, you will do better next time.” Believe it or not, no one WANTS to fail. Let them know you are paying attention to grades but that you believe they can make progress and do well.

4. Encourage Your Teen to Pursue Their Talents

Remember to be open minded with the activities your teen is interested in: playing instruments, engaging in sports, participating in visual arts, volunteer work, dancing, getting a job, mentoring others…. there is no shortage of possibilities. Think of how important it is to feel you are making your mark on the world. Allow your teen to explore what it is that makes them proud and be there to back them up. Often times, your teen will be meeting new people by participating in these activities and research proves that connectedness with others goes a long way in increasing self-worth. It will also enhance their social and assertiveness skills to learn to try new things on their own.

5. Set Clear Boundaries and Expect Rules to be Followed

They will never admit it, but teens will love you for holding them accountable. Though they are caught in the web of wanting to be independent and make their own choices, they still need protection within reason. Be clear with your homes rules and values and stay consistent. For example, if your son wants to go to a friend’s house but has studying to do, stick to your rules: “You are welcome to go to your friend’s house after you’ve finished studying.” Make it understood that this is a non-negotiable rule and you expect it to be followed. Having clear rules teaches respect and shows your child you value his/her progress.

6. Build Confidence Without Focusing on Appearance

Our teens already feel judged. They already worry about fitting in and being like everyone else. As parents, we need to make every conscious effort to celebrate our kids uniqueness without the pressures of maintaining perfect appearance. Be mindful of your language surrounding clothing, food, weight, etc… Direct compliments about who your teen is as a person and how they can impact the world and speak up for themselves. Pay attention to your own comments about your appearance, too, avoiding comments such as, “These jeans make me look fat.” Be careful not to “trash talk” others or allow this kind of talk in your home. Instead, model how to show kindness and humility toward others and don’t forget to celebrate successes, big or small!

Counseling for Teen, Grand Rapids, MI

Stephanie Zwart, LMSW is a Clinical Therapist at Empower Counsesling Services that specializes in counseling for teens in Grand Rapids, MI. Call her at 616-263-1700 or email stephaniejzwart@gmail.com. See empowercounseling.org for more information!

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