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Teens and Self-Esteem

Teens travel down a fragile road when it comes to self-esteem. Even self-assured children can lose self-esteem when they move into adolescence. It's naturally a self-conscious age. Plus, teens begin junior high and then high school, where their performance and looks are constantly judged.

What Affects Self-Esteem?
Some experts think a teen's self-esteem reflects the difference between her ideal and her actual self. If a teen thinks there is a great disparity between these two selves, then she may have self-esteem problems.

Low self-esteem problems may stem from displeasure with appearance. This is especially common in Caucasian girls. Societal and cultural standards can cause teens to develop unhealthy views about attractiveness and body size.

Two factors seem to positively influence a teen's self-esteem:

  • Accomplishments in school, sports, and other activities that are socially valued
  • Support and approval from people they care about

How to Boost Self-Esteem
To help boost your teen's esteem, try the following strategies:

  • Encourage your teen to get involved in sports, hobbies, and other activities that she or he enjoys.
  • Celebrate your teen's successes.
  • Give responsibilities. Teens should have reasonable and increasing control over their lives. Let your child prove to you that she's capable of taking on age-appropriate responsibility.
  • Show appreciation for contributions at home. Each teen goes through a struggle for independence, and that struggle begins at home.
  • Ask your teen for opinions and suggestions. This acknowledges and recognizes your teen's competence in problem-solving, creativity, knowledge and many other esteem-building qualities.
  • Teach your children to question the standards of attractiveness set forth in the media. Ask them how many people they know who really look like models or bodybuilders.
  • If your teenager has a weight problem, help her or him achieve a healthy weight in a safe way. Emphasize good nutrition and an active lifestyle.
  • Pay attention if your teen uses a lot of self-defeating statements. Negativity can signal low self-esteem. But reciting positive statements, such as "I can do anything that I set my mind to," may brighten one's outlook. In one study, students increased their self-esteem by saying 15 affirmations three times a day for two weeks.
  • Avoid criticizing teens too much. When you do criticize, attack your teen's actions, not your teen. Saying "I get upset when you're on the phone for an hour" is better than "You're a phone addict."