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How to build self confidence in your teenager

Wow! Everywhere we turn at the moment we hear about teenagers and the difficulties they endure. Here at Innate Therapies we genuinely believe that adolescents in this era have it tough. They are bombarded from all sides – academic expectations, social medial pressures, friendship difficulties, relationship issues – the list is endless.

Teenage years are renowned for being the most awkward time in a person’s life and building self-confidence in your teenager can be a hugely challenging task. Adolescence is a time when bodies, attitudes and emotions are in a constant state of flux. So how do we help a struggling teen? Here are some practical ways to improve teenage self-confidence that will help your child succeed as they move into adulthood.

As therapists we know a few tricks and tools but this doesn’t mean we are or have been perfect parents. We too have been guilty for throwing in the odd compliment or two and hoping this is enough to see us through. However, boosting confidence in your teenager is about more than that. It’s a time for stepping up and leading by example, providing opportunities for them to voice opinions and encouraging assertiveness. (Yes, we know these are all challenges in themselves!)

Why is it important to build self confidence in teenagers?

A teenager with great self-esteem and who knows their self-worth is more likely to become a confident adult eager to chase their ideals and pursue their passions. Of course, any advice should be balanced with the personality and identity of your child and you may need to try a few of these approaches to find the one that works best for you.

Engage in conversations about topics of interest

If your teen talks in two-word sentences and isn’t often keen for a casual chat, it might be time to reassess what you’re talking about. Instead of asking general questions like “how was your day?”, try sparking conversations about their hobbies or interests – anything they are knowledgeable and passionate about (even if it is a subject you don’t necessarily like or enjoy!). Whether it’s their favourite musician or the latest move they mastered on the soccer field or their electronic device, getting them talking about topics they consider themselves a bit of an expert on will naturally boost their confidence, and you never know you may actually learn a thing or two yourself and you may even change your opinion on something.

Encourage decision-making

Teens often feel unsure or indecisive about their actions or beliefs (despite their sometimes know-it-all attitude) They often find it much easier to allow others to make decisions for them or to simply adopt the choices of others.

Encouraging your teen to make informed decisions about things as simple as what type of petrol to put in their car, to what they want for dinner, can help gradually build a sense of trust in their decision-making skills. When they see that you trust their ability to make good choices, they’ll be more confident in making them and you will earn a tonne of brownie points with them (not that they will necessarily let you know that!)

By supporting their own decision making, you will be assisting them to advocate for their choices with conviction. When they are confident in their decisions, others will be too, helping them to boost their overall self-esteem. ​​​​​

Listen when they voice their opinions

Some days, disagreements with your teenager seem inevitable (and we appreciate how exhausting this can be!) When you feel unheard or you are unable to get your point of view across, it is common to become frustrated, angry or upset. While you may only want what’s best for your child, it’s important to show them that you have heard what they have to say and have given their opinions due consideration.

As your teen moves into adulthood, forming their own opinions and ideas is important. Encouraging independent thinking, and the ability to voice this, will help them adapt to all of those challenges that life can often throw at us.

Listening (and hearing – yes there is a difference!) is key, so when you can feel an argument brewing, try to remain calm and hear them out. Even if you don’t agree with them, showing that you respect their opinion will open up more adult conversations and help them to understand that their voice matters. It is this endorsement of independent thinking and opinion sharing that is essential to boosting teen self-confidence.

 

Support team activities

When considering how to boost self-confidence in a teenager, one simple and practical measure to put in place is encouraging participation in team activities.

Think about your teen’s interests and assist them to scope out clubs, societies or teams at school or in the community. Whether it’s a sports team, robotics team or online group gaming, working as a team is a critical skill that will assist your child in later life, particularly when they enter the workplace. It will also help them to assert themselves in a group situation and cultivate a sense of belonging, which naturally enhances self-esteem.

 

Exemplify giving and receiving compliments

How parents display confidence can have a direct impact on teenage self-confidence. Even though you may have taught your child to be polite and give compliments, demonstrating how to receive them can be much more difficult.

It’s important for you to display that you are comfortable with receiving compliments. Try not to shy away from, or downplay, the compliments you receive from others. If you can show your teen that you know your self-worth, they will see this as natural behaviour and become more comfortable with receiving praise for their strengths too.

In your home, champion a complimentary culture with a focus on giving and receiving compliments with confidence and ease

 

Praise effort, not outcome

Similar to having toddlers, if you’re trying to build confidence and self-esteem in a teenager, it’s important to remember to praise your child’s efforts rather than the outcomes of their actions. While we can control the amount of effort we put into a task or activity, sometimes we’re unable to control the outcome. By showing your child they deserve praise for effort, even when they don’t achieve the result they wished for, it’s helping them to become confident to make an attempt, even if they may fail.

We’re all a little scared of failure, but providing and receiving praise for giving it a shot helps to create a resilient and confident adult.

 

Demonstrate positive self-talk

When thinking about how to improve a teenager’s self-confidence, demonstrating positive self-talk is particularly important. Body shaming can be a huge problem for both teenage girls and boys, so being careful not to let your child hear you say things like “he’s so much smarter than me” or “I’ll never be as gorgeous as XYZ”.

Try to steer your teenager away from comparing themselves to others and where you can, nip any negative inner monologues in the bud by focussing on the qualities, skills and attributes they like about themselves instead. Engaging in positive self-talk could be as simple as going around the dinner table and having each family member acknowledge one thing they did well that day and why they’re proud of themselves for it.

 

It can be tricky to navigate teenage self-confidence at the best of times. Try leading by example and give the above advice a try. You never know, it might just help your teenager grow into a confident and assertive adult who knows their self-worth.

 

-Abby Wildsmith

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