Adolescent self-esteem – how parents can help


Adolescent self-esteem - how parents can helpDuring adolescence, the development of a strong sense of self and of self-worth is vital, as self-esteem will positively or negatively affect your teen’s choices – who they hang out with, how well they do in school, whether or not they experiment with drugs and alcohol, and every other aspect of their life. So how do you know if your teen is suffering from low self-esteem, and how can you help?

 Watch for the following:

  • Negative mindset
  • Self-neglect
  • Social isolation
  • Second-guessing own opinions
  • Overly concerned about other’s opinions
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Extremely defensive
  • Need for perfectionism
  • Symptoms of mood disorders such as anxiety or depression
  • Attention seeking behavior
  • People pleasing traits

Teens are bombarded by both personal and outside influences, any of which can wreak havoc on their self-esteem. Bullying, cyber-bullying, media pressure, body image issues, learning disabilities, sexuality issues, parental/familial influence and peer pressure can all impact an adolescent’s self-esteem.

How can you help?

There are a number of ways you can help your teen to improve their self-esteem. The most important way is to be there for them, spend one-on-one time with them, and to consistently respect and encourage them. Be sure to maintain open lines of communication on a daily basis and actively listen to your child’s perspective and sentiments towards various aspects of their life. Support their interests, and encourage them to get involved in activities and social events. Be careful to avoid comparing your child to other siblings or peers, and focus instead on their strengths and successes.

If you notice that your teen is struggling with a self-esteem issue suggest one or more of the following exercises to them. They can do them alone, or with your participation:

  • Self-Esteem Boosters – List everything that bring happiness or contributes positively to their life.  Ask them to keep the list in a safe place, like their wallet, or on their phone, and refer back to it when feeling less confident.
  • Journal – Document emotions, thoughts, accomplishments, goals and creative writing.
  • “Me” Collage – Visual representation of your adolescent’s favorite pastimes, belongings, favorite travelling destinations and significant people in their life.

This may also be a good time to evaluate your own self-esteem, and the way you present yourself to your teens. Are you a positive model of healthy body-image, for example, or do you often complain about your body or the appearance of others? Do you allow others to treat you badly? Do you talk down about yourself? Your children may be learning and absorbing more than you realize.

Ultimately, self-esteem and self-worth are hugely affected by the influence of parents and family. A counsellor can help, and can work one-on-one with your teen or together with you and your family to transcend negative influences and reach a place of self-love and self-respect.


Sodhi, P. (Sodhi, 2011). Adolescent self-esteem: maximizing your confidence level! Shepell·fgi Quarterly Counsellors’ Connection Newsletter, pp.11-12.


Tags: , ,