5 ways to boost your teenager’s self esteem

Published On  May 21, 2015 By

Teenage brings a lot of self doubts. This is how you can help your teens gain more confidence and self esteem…

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“Mom, My nose is too long”; or, Oh! There’s acne all over my face!” We parents with teens have heard all this every now and then. Awkward body, pimples or hirsutism, physical and hormonal changes that even adults are not comfortable with yet; these are enough to make children traversing teenage feel insecure. This is also a time when friendships are not permanent and your teen can be going through a tough time socially as well, no matter how popular they seem to the parents. Raging hormones lead to excessive emotional outbursts, doubts over own attractiveness and sexual feelings experienced. And on top of it all, pressure starts building up on the academic front too with close relatives and friends’ parents popping the big question –“What do you want to do in college?” If this does not make their cup of misery full, I don’t know what else will.

During teenage, personality seems to undergo a change. This is when they seem to be turning inward – they may shut themselves in their room, not listen when you talk to them and hurl this accusation at parents most often – “you won’t be able to understand what I am facing right now!”

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Instead of taking affront – parents should stay calm and try finding out what is going on with their teen. Cross questioning is not going to help. Nor is following them around, going through their cell phone messages or Facebook accounts advisable (Many Indian parents do this, and it only gets their children become more distant). You love your teen and this is the time to prove it by being there for them.  It’s better to be a silent detective like Sherlock Holmes or better still, Hercule Poirot and use the information to discuss issues with them. The most effective form of counseling is to involve your teen in discussions where they arrive at solutions themselves. Parents can do a great deal to boost a teen’s self esteem during this volatile period.

1. Trust your teen: It is important to show your child unconditional acceptance at a time when they are going through physical and emotional upheavals in their young lives. Unfortunately this is a time when parents start questioning everything that teens do. Certain secretiveness comes into most teenagers’ behavior at this point in time and the reason for this is debatable. Which comes first – the parental questioning or the teen secretiveness? A typical chicken and egg story. By trusting your teen and not appearing to question everything they do, you will be increasing the chances that they will confide in you.

2. Appreciate your little adults: Teens are developing not just physically. Their mental capabilities are also maturing. Hence they slide into the decision making mode without their being aware of it. They want to be involved in the decision making especially where their lives are concerned. Very often Indian parents have a tendency to make all decisions for their children. Very few think that they need to engage their children. Confident adults are those who have been inducted into decision making in their family by their parents, whether it’s the choice of a course of study, or the clothes they wear, their hairstyles or choice of friends. This skill is necessary for them to be successful adults. No matter how much you try to advise them, children will make mistakes and hopefully learn from them.

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3. Be there for them: Paradoxically, parents should also know how to not become overly involved in everything that is related with their teens. While the teens are chafing at the bit, they are not equipped to make all decisions in their lives, so leaving them to their own devices at all times and giving them complete freedom as some parents are proud to announce, is not recommended. I have seen instances where the teens are left to party while parents go elsewhere. Or they are sent to restaurants with the parent’s credit card. Undoubtedly, your teen will experiment with alcohol or drugs or their friends will. Adult supervision is required until as a parent you are sure that your child will not misuse the freedom and can resist peer pressure. Similarly, if you find your teens style of dressing offensive, establish limits. Punk hair cut is alright, but trousers displaying underwear is a NO. Even if your teen grumbles, they will be secretly relieved that the decision is taken out of their hands. If it is a course of education, have a joint discussion about options open before your child, but do consider their interests. Never force your interest on them.

4. Comparisons are odious: Appreciate them for what they are. All children have strengths and weaknesses. To keep extolling your neighbor’s child’s virtues or you sister’s daughter’s style quotient is doing neither of you any good. Your child will feel alienated and let down by you. Besides, individual differences are an attribute of human beings. Here one size does not fit all. Encouragement works more effectively than discouragement. Identify your teen’s strengths and interests and help build on these from much earlier on. Being a rock for your child will give them a confidence that nothing else will.

5. Control begets rebellion: It is a misconception that the more people are controlled the better they will behave. Even in his recent book- “David and Goliath”, Malcolm Gladwell has written in favor of involvement and encouragement rather than control. Control can take the form of criticism, micromanaging, offensive remarks, comparisons with others or emotional blackmail. Of course, in extreme cases parents move in to control physically often stepping into the realm of abuse. That, however, is another discussion.

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I cannot stress enough that this is the time when parents either keep their teens or lose them. People often complain that their children do not keep in touch with them when they leave for college or work, much later on. I strongly suspect that the rift is created well before that – during their teenage years. Many teenagers are happy to leave home and this has nothing to do with the excitement of starting a new life; and that should be a point of deep introspection.

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