16 Ways to Help Your Teen Feel Confident
By Sarah Parker Ward
Teenagers deal with a heady mix of excitement, awkwardness, self-doubt and self-learning as they transition from being children to young adults. Teens have always had to deal with depression, loneliness and self-rejection, and girls are even more prone to depression and feelings of self-doubt. The complexities of social media make this naturally challenging time even more complex, and today’s teenagers are growing up with even more access to information and influencers than we ever dreamed of, which many argue has only increased the pressures around body image, capabilities and likability.
As a parent you can guide your child through these turbulent times by helping to build the confidence and self-esteem that will get them through the rough patches now so they can thrive later.
- Inspire Them. Be the person you hope your child will be. Show them what confidence and kindness look like in your daily actions.
- Open Up. Talk about your own embarrassing teen moments. A little humility can go a long way in making them feel less self-conscious.
- Relate as Peers. Speak to your teens like they’re adults because, really, they are. When they think they know everything, it can be easy to lose your cool and talk down to them.
- Praise Actions, not Looks. Compliment what they do rather than traits they were born with. Confidence built on looks, for instance, has a shaky foundation.
- Learn from Them – Literally. Let them teach you something. It shows that you trust them and also respect that they have unique experiences they can share. Maybe Snapchat?
- Develop Discourse. Teach your teen to argue effectively. Knowing how to build a case helps them understand logic and strengthens confidence.
- Make Plans. Grab lunch or dinner or coffee with them sometime, as you would with a friend. Food is a communal event, and for many teens, going out to eat as just a twosome can signify a rite of passage into adulthood.
- Broaden Horizons. Expose them to new ideas and environments. Try volunteering with them at a shelter or attending a professional event together. Travel to a new city or catch a show in your own. By helping them explore, you show them the beauty in diversity.
- Foster Emotional Intelligence. Help them understand the emotions they are feeling by putting them into words. Understanding what they are feeling, and why, will help them to manage their emotions productively – an invaluable life skill.
- Encourage Safe Experiments. Purple hair may not be your thing, but allowing your child to express themselves in ways that do not harm them builds their sense of agency and self-control, and they will learn from the experience.
- Be Honest, but Kind. Give them direct, constructive feedback – and compliment them when they demonstrate the behavior you want to foster in them.
- Discourage Perfectionism. Apart from the fact that perfectionism can increase stress and lead to depression , your child should understand that everyone makes mistakes, and that making mistakes is okay – especially when you learn from them.
- Find Teachable Moments. When your child does make a mistake, help them learn from it by understanding what led to that situation and the steps they can take to help avoid it in the future.
- Embrace Awkwardness. Don’t be afraid to have those awkward conversations. The more directly you can tackle uncomfortable topics with your teen, whether it is about their body, their values, their friends – you name it – the better they will be at handling those issues too.
- Teaching ‘No’. Teach your teen assertiveness. “No” is a powerful, important word, and knowing how to stand up for themselves gives them confidence.
- Be the Parent. Remember that parenthood still trumps friendship. Having a close relationship with your young adult is amazing, but at the end of the day, you’re the only person who can rightfully come in and tell them when they’ve done wrong. And that’s a really important job to help them grow.
In collaboration with National 4-H Council. Visit 4-H.org for more tips, ideas and activities for the entire family.
©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2019