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Fostering Healthy Self-Esteem in Your Teen

Submitted to the Empowerment Magazine by Sue Goetz, LCSW

 

 

WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?

When teenagers are feeling insecure, they often verbalize negative self-statements such as, “I’m so stupid”, “I’m so ugly”, or “nobody likes me”.  I often see parents disagreeing with their teen, trying to reassure them with an opposite statement.  The problem with that approach is that it can just make the teen think that the parent is a liar or telling untruths to make them feel better.  I advise you ask questions to further explore their negative statements. 

 

For example, if your teen says, “I’m so stupid”, inquire: “What makes you think you’re stupid?”  Further engaging your teen in conversation could go like this:  “hmmm…so what you’re saying is you’re not so great in math”.   “What other subjects are you good in?”  This approach will help teens learn to deconstruct their own negative beliefs, and find balance in the fact that good self-esteem does not mean we feel 100% about ourselves 100% of the time in 100% of all life areas.

 

 

One of the most important things you can do for your teenager is to provide support, encouragement, and love to help show them they are important.  Having a positive relationship with one’s parents during childhood and adolescence is important to fostering healthy self-esteem. 

 

As we’ve learned that the change in self-esteem in adolescence is attributed to body image, positive feelings can increase when a teen feels more comfortable ‘in their own skin’.  Parents can target areas such as: cleanliness and good grooming, clothes according to current style, dressing appropriately for body type, and good posture.

 

 

Addressing the tendency for female insecurity associated with puberty, teen girls benefit from being understanding toward the changes in their bodies as well as those of their peers. Self-esteem may be increased if they are coached that pubertal changes are normal and will happen to everyone, just at different times.

 

 

I think there is too much hype on telling kids that everyone is beautiful in their own way.  Although there is truth to that, of course, it seems to send a constant message that physical appearance directly correlates with success and happiness in life.  I have an Iranian colleague who once told me that actors and actresses are not so idolized in her country, even looked down upon for their career choice compared to that of a doctor, for example.  Wouldn’t that be nice if we Americans were ‘obsessed’ with celebrity culture of who was saving lives and making a difference, versus which Hollywood starlets look best and which worst in a bathing suit.  I think that developing internal resources is a better key than pushing for perfect appearance.

 

If you’re interested in subscribing to Sue’s free bimonthly e-newsletter on tips for teens, please sign up online at www.hopeintherapy.com

 

 

Sue Goetz is a licensed psychotherapist/ counselor in private practice, working with adolescents, adults, and families.  Meeting with her for therapy can be really helpful when struggling with troubles including but not limited to: depression, anxiety/ overwhelm, transitions (e.g., divorce), family conflict, and high-risk behavior (e.g., these warning signs).  She is also trained in a therapeutic technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), which is highly effective in work with trauma, including abuse, complicated grief, bullying, and phobias. www.hopeintherapy.com