As a parent, we want our kids to stand strong and be confident in who they are, but in reality, kids are still developing confidence throughout their teen years. In fact, insecurity is considered normal during youth. Many kids go through times when they feel insecure and don’t recognize their own self-worth, and it can be hard for parents to watch kids go through this struggle. Knowing confidence is key to our kids’ success with academic performance, social interaction, willingness to try new things, relationship development and ability to resist negative pressures, leave us as parents wondering what we can do to help instill confidence in our kids. The good news is - there are some things parents can do to help kids along the way to help boost their confidence and avoid excess insecurity.
- Listen: Kids may say things like “I’m not attractive or smart…I have no talents” or the opposite “I have lots of friends …so why do I still feel bad about myself?” No matter the social status, most kids go through tough times. Don’t dismiss these comments. Acknowledge their concerns and let them know they are not alone in their feelings. Open conversations may provide insight into the source of their feelings and will encourage kids to come to you in the future for support.
- Sympathize: Let them know you understand what they are going through feels bad. Don’t minimize their pain. Talk to them about your memories of similar feelings or situations. Discuss how other go through the same thing. Even the most confident kid has his or her struggles.
- Build Them Up: Every kid has something they are good at. Recognizing this can go a long way to building confidence. Complements on things like their artwork, skill at playing an instrument, performance in a play, sports or other activity will help kids feel good and help boost their self-confidence. Even if your child’s skill level is not there, it’s important to recognize their efforts. You can also build them up in other areas, like relationship skills. Recognize when they are being a good friend or sibling. Even praise for picking up litter lets them know that their efforts did not go unnoticed and that caring about the environment is a worthy cause they should be proud of supporting.
- Give Positive Feedback: Not all kids make good grades in every class. Let them know that getting a bad grade in one class doesn’t mean they are a bad student overall. They may just have to work harder in that subject. Point out their strengths and how well they are doing in other subjects. Remind them that with more effort, they can do well. On the other hand, there are times when kids need help. A perpetual state of frustration with school performance can lead to confidence issues, so get help from teachers or tutors when needed.
- Be a Good Role Model: How you treat yourself is noticed by our kids and can become the standard for their behavior. If you are overly pessimistic, a perfectionistic or hard on yourself, your child may model this behavior. Talk to kids about your struggles and your achievements. This will let kids know that you value yourself -- a healthy behavior for kids to model.
- Encourage Individuality: Being different can be difficult. Kids in particular tend to want to be just like everyone else. Encourage your child to branch out and develop different interests from their group of friends. They may actually find their talent in new areas. Plus, the act of branching out may instill a sense of pride in your child.
Websites: http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/self_esteem.html; http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/adolescence/part8.html; http://www.livestrong.com/article/138160-signs-lack-self-confidence/
Books: Being Me: a Kid’s Guide to Boosting Confidence and Self Esteem by Wendy Moss; 501 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem by Robert Ramsey.;Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Teens by PH. D. Richard Carlon; Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul by Jack Canfield; I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem by Jamie Lee Curtis.
Websites with expanded book listings: http://www.parentbooks.ca/Self_Esteem.html and http://www.tellinitlikeitis.net/2008/08/books-on-building-self-confidence-in-children-and-teens.html