As parents, we want our teens to feel confident about who they are. We cross our fingers that the encouragement and support we’ve given them up to this point has been enough to build strong self-esteem.
The reality is the teenage years are full of change.
A teen's brain experiences a “reorganization” that can leave both parents and teens feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and confused.
As teens search for their place in the world, many struggle through situations that challenge beliefs about themselves they’ve clung to for years.
Thankfully, this doesn’t signal the end of your influence! Follow the 15 practical and super effective tips below to help your teen grow into a strong, confident adult with healthy self-worth.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our FREE Your Words Matter Kit. With these 10 popular parenting guides, you will know exactly how to speak to your children to help them develop confidence, internal motivation, and a can-do attitude.
1. Love Unconditionally.
Make sure your teen can rest assured your love does NOT depend on their grades, performance, friend group, college, or any other factor - including their choices or behavior.
When we tie love to performance, we miss the essence of unconditional love - that it is freely given because our teen is enough just as they are.
This doesn’t mean you and your teen can’t make mistakes, have bad days, or have arguments. And, it certainly doesn’t mean you ignore abuse. It’s just a reminder the overall message your teen should receive is: “I love you no matter what. I’m committed to loving you through the ups and downs.”
2. Embrace a Growth Mindset in Your Home.
Many teens are stuck in a “fixed mindset” about who they are or what they can or cannot accomplish and often feel unsure how to move forward.
Bring what you’re learning about growth mindset into your family conversations. Talk about the brain, use words like neuroplasticity, and make observations about areas in which you’ve seen your teen grow.
Even if your teen seems to reject it outright, sprinkle these messages into your interactions, reminding them their abilities are not fixed, inborn, and inflexible, but there is always room to grow and improve.
3. Make Room for Failure.
Mistakes and setbacks can crush delicate self-esteem and wreak havoc on a child’s confidence. Your voice is essential in these situations. When you criticize, panic or gloss over a failure, you emphasize a fixed mindset, basically sending the message this bump in the road is a sign there is no hope for improvement in the future.
Instead, take a deep breath and open up the conversation with your teen. Ask questions like:
- Where did things get off track?
- What things influenced this decision?
- What did you learn from this situation?
- How are you planning to move forward in a positive direction?
The Big Life Journal - Teen Edition includes activities and advice on accepting mistakes and how to use failures to your advantage. When teens view failures as learning experiences, they can overcome obstacles in their paths.
4. Praise the Process and Tie it to the Outcome.
It’s easy to go overboard, gushing about your teen’s awards, accolades, and achievements. Unfortunately, these things can become tied to their self-esteem, causing them to feel they’re only worthwhile if they achieve.
On the flip side, they aren’t worthwhile if they fall short or fail. Instead, congratulate your teen’s accomplishments, milestones, and growth by emphasizing their hard work, effort, and perseverance.
Focusing on the characteristics that got them to this point will help them make the connection between their effort and the result.
Effective praise can build resilience, confidence, and self-direction. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Praising Kids for additional tips and positive phrases.
Don't forget to download our FREE Your Words Matter Kit with 10 helpful parenting guides and tips to use when speaking to your children.
5. Help them Gain New and Lacking Skills.
Adolescence is a time of huge brain growth, but it can also highlight areas where your teen struggles - physically, academically, socially, or emotionally - more than they did when they were younger.
These new struggles can lead to feelings of negative self-worth. When you identify an area of concern or notice a challenge, encourage your teen to see this as an opportunity to grow, learn and expand their interests and abilities.
Look for ways to build on things your teen is already passionate about and explore options for them to use these situations to practice or sharpen new skills.
6. Be a Family that Doesn’t Give Up.
Many people believe they need to feel confident before they tackle something difficult.
Carol Dweck states, “A remarkable thing I’ve learned from my research is that in the growth mindset you don’t always need confidence.”
Your teen can still try something they’re not good at or start something new, even if they don’t feel super confident at the outset. If they stick to something wholeheartedly, they embrace a growth mindset and can build confidence along the way. (This is also true for parents learning to relate to their teenagers!)
7. Give Reassurance.
As teens navigate through the ups and downs of new situations and often overwhelming emotions, it helps to know these challenges are normal.
Building self-esteem and confidence often means taking bold stands and making decisions that impact peer groups or social standing.
Remind your child they are not a “bad person” for moving on from a toxic friendship or choosing an activity over a boyfriend/girlfriend. Growth and maturity can be difficult, but it doesn’t mean your teen is doing something wrong.
8. Talk About Assertiveness.
Confident, clear, and persuasive communication does not come easy to everyone. Many teens don’t have a grasp on the differences between assertive, passive, and aggressive communication.
Discuss how nuances such as tone of voice can make or break a conversation. Point out how body language and nonverbal cues can send a message of their own.
Encourage your teen to practice in front of a mirror so they can begin to identify the nuances of assertive communication. Standing up tall, rolling their shoulders back, and speaking clearly can improve how your teen feels, especially if they aren’t feeling very confident going into a difficult situation.
9. Practice at Home.
Create a safe space for your teen to process through difficult situations. Give them the freedom to talk freely about challenges, peer conflict, and gripes about “unfair” teachers and overwhelming homework assignments.
Then, explore ways they can manage these situations with confidence, addressing others in a way that is respectful and keeps their self-worth intact.
For teens who struggle to communicate clearly or are challenged in some social situations, use the safety of your home to explore their options. Role play potential conversations, using a variety of responses, tones of voice, volume, and nonverbal cues.
10. Encourage Self-Compassion.
Growth mindset requires kindness and patience with ourselves as we grow and learn. Contrary to popular messages in social media and influences from their peer group, your teen doesn’t need an outside opinion to prove personal worth.
If you notice your teen is stuck in a negative or fixed mindset about their worth, encourage them to embrace self-compassion.
Introduce mindfulness apps or activities, create positive mantras or list affirmations where they will be seen on a regular basis. When your teen is struggling, encourage them to talk to themselves using the same words and tone of voice they would use if a close friend was struggling in the same way.
Activities such as creating your own mantra, developing affirmations, filling out an interests map, and designing a vision board are all included in the Big Life Journal - Teen Edition. These are great ways for teens to connect with themselves.
11. Encourage Diversity in Activities and Interests.
Teens who are involved in a variety of activities, sports teams, volunteer opportunities, and educational activities tend to have a higher sense of self-esteem. They aren’t crushed by a setback in one area because they have other things feeding their self-worth.
When your teen engages in activities helping others, they gain a sense of purpose.
A [teen] who has many sources of self-esteem besides romantic activity is a [teen] who’s positioned to have a healthy romantic life when the time is right.-Lisa Damour, author
12. Give Less Advice.
It’s not easy to sit back and watch as your child struggles to learn or has to manage the consequences of an impulsive decision. It’s normal to want to share your wisdom or do what you can to smooth the path ahead for your teen.
However, learning to think through challenges, brainstorm options, and problem solve well can all build your teen’s confidence.
Rather than solving all of your teen’s problems for them, engage them in the process. Become a cheerleader, rather than a director. Listen as they explore where things went off track and then support your teen’s plan to move forward in a positive direction.
13. Ask for Advice.
Parents face challenges and failures in our everyday lives. We can use these moments to show our teens that we are human and that we need help too! Be sure to discuss your challenges in front of your kids. Let them see you make mistakes.
Discuss the situation with them. Perhaps ask them for advice or see how they would approach your problem. This not only creates connection but shows your teen that you are NOT perfect and that you are learning and growing too.
Keep the relationship with your teen strong and build their self-worth by resisting the urge to turn everything into a “teachable moment” or a long lecture.
Instead, focus on listening to what your teen is saying. Don’t make assumptions, judgments, or jump to the offense. Begin with empathy, putting yourself in your child’s shoes.
Relating to them on an emotional level, realizing that responding with logic or reasoning may push them away.
You don’t have to agree with your teen’s perspective to be empathetic. Focus on improving your listening skills rather than needing to be “right” or having the last word.
15. Model Confidence.
Your teen is watching you. They are observing how you manage challenging situations and how you feel about yourself.
Watch the conversations you have when your teen is around - be careful you don’t put others down, criticize yourself, or make your own happiness dependent on other people or circumstances.
If you’ve struggled with these things in the past, admit to your teen you are still working on this, even as an adult.
Take an honest assessment of your own self-esteem and confidence. Then, embrace a growth mindset! Rather than beating yourself up, look for places or areas you want to improve, find things that will build your self-confidence...and then get started!
Your teen’s true confidence is reflected in their mindset and their readiness to grow and learn from the challenges they encounter. Unfortunately, this may take time.
You can’t force your child to embrace a growth mindset, practice positive affirmations, or try challenging activities, but you can create a home environment that nourishes and encourages these behaviors.
With your support, your teen can build self-worth and confidence which matches the images she’s sharing on social media.
Looking for additional resources for your teen? Check out the 2022 New Year Kit PDF (ages 11+) designed to help tweens and teens discover how to set effective goals, form new habits, and practice reflection and introspection. With the design your tweens and teens will love, this kit makes goal-setting and self-reflection actually fun!