Self Esteem Issues in Teenagers

Imagine you’re walking down the street. You pass a group of teenagers. Suddenly, they all burst out laughing.

You’d probably wonder what caused such laughter. Was it you?

This type of self evaluating attack is a real threat to one’s esteem.

Unfortunately, teens are constantly in the face of such outburst and attacks in school hallways, when they approach a group of friends, even when they try to tell their family about their ambitions and feelings.

So, what is self esteem?

Self esteem simply defines an individual’s concept of worth. It can be superficial, as in being worthy of a pretty girl’s affection, or profound like being worthy of life itself.

Teens are especially vulnerable to attacks on their self esteem because they place a great value on physical attributes and social status that are beyond their control

When a teen is unable to cope with threats to their self esteem they are at high risk for:

– antisocial behaviors such as stealing, bulling, and sexual promiscuity
– Developing eating disorders
– drug use
– isolation and depression
– poor school performance

Now, while peers do have a role in breaking down a teen’s concept of worthiness, parents and caregivers have the most influence on developing a teen’s self esteem.

It’s a shame that when the concept of developing self esteem became popular in the early 1970’s it was misinterpreted as praising the child even if they do something poorly.

Proof that this technique doesn’t work is found on the faces of our most dumfounded American Idol wannabes.

So, how can parents and caregivers foster a teenager’s self esteem without giving false value?

1) Praise Strengths

This doesn’t mean to go out and cheer your teen for taking out the garbage, but you can say “Thanks I really appreciate your help”

It really helps to stop and think about what you’re praising because the meaning comes across as more valuable when you say it right.

Grades are a biggie. Many well meaning parents say, “Wow congratulations on the A!”

They would have put a higher value on the teen’s performance if they’d said, “Wow! I see you really worked hard this semester. I heard Mr. Sung is a tough science teacher.

2) Provide a Secure Home Environment

Anywhere a teen comes into contact with peers is as threatening as any dark and foreboding jungle you can imagine.

If you don’t believe me, hang around and watch your teen interact with his/her friends. Just about every time your teen makes a comment they will look around to see how their friends react to what they’ve just said.

With this in mind, realize it’s important for a teen to have a place where they can feel free to relax, be themselves, and still be loved with or without their makeup or acne.

3) Create Opportunities to Share and Make Memories

Working on a project like, painting the house, or taking a trip with your teen will give you countless opportunities to swap stories, experiences, and make memories that are just between you and your family.

If you spend time with your teen, even if it starts in protest, they will come to recognize you as a person they can share their thoughts with, and turn to for support.

For a teen, just knowing they have the security of a supportive family will help cancel out any negative intrusions from peers.

4) Use Positive Touch

Athletes have got this down, and it doesn’t take much.

A pat on the back or a hug in addition to positive words can really make a statement for teens.

To teens it says,” I don’t have cooties like they say at school”, or “Mom really hugged me tight she must be really proud of me.”

For some reason parents stop touching their teens at a time when they most need to know they’re loveable.

Don’t feel bad if they at first your teen rejects your touch because it probably came at a bad time, such as after a fight, or they’re just not use to you touching them anymore.

They will come around if you reserve positive touch for an appropriate situation.

In the end it’s most important for parents to understand that our teens are not younger versions of ourselves. They are individual people learning about themselves and where they fit into society.

Remain positive and patient because your teen still depends on you.

1) 2)Nursing Care of Families and Children (second edition)
Mott, James, Sperhac/Addison-Wesley Nursing A division
of The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Inc.