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  • Danielle Matthew

How to Help Your Teen Increase Her Self-Esteem

Why Your Teen’s Self-Esteem is Important

Good self-esteem can help tweens and teens try new things, be more likely to help and encourage others, take healthy risks and solve problems. It provides a strong foundation for making good decisions, and not being held back by fear or giving into peer pressure. Strong self-confidence can also help teens better face changes; such as, going to a new school, meeting new friends, starting a new part-time job and moving to a new location. Ultimately, a self-confident teen is often a happier teen. That’s why it’s important to address when your teen doesn’t have good self-esteem.

The Causes, Signs & Effects of Your Teen’s Low Self-Esteem

It’s not uncommon for a child’s self-confidence to waver, especially during puberty or when starting a new school. There are also other factors that can lead to low self-esteem.

Causes of Low Self-Esteem:

  • Being a victim of bullying

  • Poor academic performance

  • Ongoing medical issues

  • Anxiety or mood disorders such as depression

  • Negative friends or peers

  • Stressful events such as divorce or relocation

Signs of Low Self-Esteem:

  • Avoids social interactions that’s outside the teen’s circle of friends or family

  • Gets embarrassed easily and/or constantly worries what others will think

  • Negative moods such as feeling sad, anxious, ashamed or angry

  • Trouble making and/or keeping friends

  • Avoids trying new things because of fear of failure or judgement by others

When left unaddressed or if low self-esteem becomes chronic, it can lead to other problems.

Effects of Low Self-Esteem:

  • Bullying (either being a victim or bullying others). Bullies often target individuals who lack confidence. By the same token, bullies also commonly have low self-esteem, which is what leads to the bullying.

  • Poor body image

  • Giving into peer pressure

  • A strong dislike for school

  • Feels disconnected from others

  • A decline in grades

As you may have noticed, the causes, signs and effects of your teen’s low self-esteem are all closely related. For example, bullying can cause low self-esteem, but it can also be an effect of low self-esteem. The same goes for poor academic performance. It can cause low self-esteem, but lack of self-confidence can also result in a further decline in grades if the issue is not addressed.

How to Help Improve Your Teen’s Self-Esteem

For parents who ask how they can help their child increase their self-esteem, I recommend using a framework that I have detailed in The Empowered Child book. I call it “The Three E’s”, and the E’s stand for empathy, empowerment and engagement.

  • Empathy means understanding your child’s perspective from their viewpoint. To be able to understand how your child is feeling, you must truly listen. Part of empathy is asking how your child feels vs. telling or assuming. Listen without judgement as you ask your child questions such as “I noticed that you haven’t been talking about your friends as much. Did something happen that you’d like to talk about?”, or “I am wondering if you may be disappointed that you didn’t receive as good of a grade as you may have liked on the test that you took?”

  • Empowerment means helping your child have the confidence he or she needs to make their voice heard. You can empower your child by asking what things she thinks she can do to start feeling better about herself. Encourage your child to share her own thoughts or opinions, and provide guidance and encouragement as your child creates a plan for resolution. Ask questions such as, “I noticed that you really seem to like reading. Would you be interested in joining a book club so that you can meet kids that share the same interest?” or “Would you like to ask your new friend to do something after school so that you can get to know her better?” After your child has created and shared his plan for moving forward, encourage your child to practice carrying it out through role play.

  • Engagement means helping your child carry out her plan of resolution. Providing support and consistently checking in with your child is essential in helping her stay empowered and to help her increase her self-esteem. Ask your child questions such as “How do you feel it went when you asked your friend if she’d like to get together after school someday?” or “Do you feel that the new tutor is helping you feel more confident in math?”

  • Showing empathy, empowering your child to take steps to change the situation, and engaging with your child are great ways to help her increase self-esteem. If your child’s self-esteem does not improve or leads to other issues, it is important to seek professional help to address.

About the Author:

Danielle Matthew is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who helps adolescents, adults, couples and families who are in pain due to issues such as anxiety, severe stress, low self-esteem, or depression. With over 20 years of experience, Danielle authored Amazon Parenting Best-Seller, The Empowered Child: How to Help Your Child Cope, Communicate, and Conquer Bullying, has a private therapy practice adolescents, adults and families, and is the Director of The Empowerment Space Bullying Therapy Program in Los Angeles. Featured in Huffington Post and, Danielle has appeared on Fox, ABC and CBS Morning Shows and Mom Talk Radio, and is the expert contributor to Washington Post’s article: “Kids love to ‘roast’ each other. But when does good-natured teasing become bullying?”

Please click here if you’d like to contact Danielle.



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