Self-esteem is the value people see in themselves, the pride they feel in themselves, and generally how worthwhile they feel. Self-esteem is so important because feeling good about yourself affects how you act. A person who has high self-esteem will make friends easily, is more in control of their behavior, and will enjoy life more. In contrast, low self-esteem is linked to depression, anorexia, bulimia, self-injury, a lack of respect for others and a variety of other behavioral problems including risky sexual behavior and abuse of drugs and alcohol.
As teens go through puberty, their physical appearance changes. This causes changes in self-image and self-esteem. Often this is a difficult time for teens. To complicate the problem, the media is constantly pushing their version of the “perfect” physical look and this can cause dangerously distorted expectations of reality. There are also family and peer influences to consider. If a teen recognizes that their parents incessantly obsess about physical appearance, that can put undue pressure on them and we all know how merciless peers can be in their criticism of physical appearance. When you combine all these factors, it creates the perfect storm for low self-esteem and the often-associated behavior problems. Unfortunately many youth fall into this trap. Although self-esteem problems are commonly attributed to teenage girls, teenage boys often also have serious self-esteem problems.
The pressure is not just related to physical appearance. If a child it told they are “stupid” on a daily basis by family and/or peers, it can cause serious damage to their self-esteem. If they believe nobody else thinks they are worth anything, children will put very little value in themselves.
What can I do to help my teen have a better self-esteem?
One of your important responsibilities as a parent is to help your child develop a healthy self-esteem that can withstand the trials of adolescence. The simple truth is that parents who value their kids, produce kids who value themselves. The National Association of School Psychologists suggests that you make sure to marvel at your child’s accomplishments and appreciate things about your child that set them apart from others. Look for opportunities to praise your child in a genuine manner. Talk to your kids about media distortions regarding physical appearance and the dangerous behaviors they can inspire. It is also important that you really listen to your child. When they vent to you about something stressful or upsetting, validate their concern rather than dismissing it. This helps your child feel valued by you and this will translate into self-perceived value.
Once a teen has reached a certain level of low self-esteem, it may be difficult if not impossible for a parent to help. In these conditions or in situations involving dangerous behavior that is likely to result in physical harm to the child, immediate action should be taken. If this is the case, parents should consult a qualified professional to help their child through these serious problems.
The following are just a few sites that offer good information and resources for parents.
- DoSomething.org - Facts About Teens and Self-Esteem
- KidsHelath.org - Body Image and Self-Esteem
- National Association of School Psychologists - Supporting Children’s Mental Health: Tips for Parents and Educators
Please explore our website or call an admissions counselor at 866.694.8882 for additional information about how Wood Creek Academy can help your family.