Helping anxious teenagers build resilience

June 05th 2020

Helping you to help them build higher self esteem


Having low self esteem tends to go hand in hand with adolescence and the lower the self esteem, the higher typically the teenage anxiety.

This week in my closed facebook group for parents of teenagers,  I have been sharing ideas from a blog from a Single Mum who feared her ability to parent based on how she was parented. Here is my favourite of the rules she put in place for her child, as I find it a vital one for teenagers in helping build self esteem and thus reduce anxiety:

Do the right thing even when it is hard or scary and know I've always got your back.

There are two key parts for this: Integrity and trust.

Integrity is a value – something that is learned. And it is also one of the pinnacles of resilience (the foundation for confidence.) It is about standing up for what is right, not abandoning people to go with the crowd and speaking your truth, even if it is scary.

For a teen, not being part of the crowd is a huge source of anxiety so being in the majority is the path of least resistance – in that moment at least!

And that is where the second part comes in – ‘Know (trust) I’ve always got your back.’ This is our role as parents. To let them know that whatever they do, you have their back.

This then supports the confidence for them to, for example, call you at 3am drunk, knowing that that is the right thing to do rather than kip on a park bench for fear of reprimand from you. To have confidence that you have their back and will jump in the car and get them.

At a recent drugs talk I went to the speaker made it clear,: Let your kid know that if they are doing drugs in the bedroom and someone starts fitting, they can come down to you for help. This is the same principle – they do the right thing (get help) and know that you have got their back.

This does not of course mean you accept every behaviour. The adult discussion about their choices comes later with any relevant consequence, but in that moment of risk, this rule is the one they can rely on.

So how is this achieved?

My advice to parents is repetition and walking the talk.

One of the ways I  love get stories across to teenagers is through stories.  It helps them absorb the information without it being about  them.

So stories of situations such as these (even if you make them up!!) with a “You know I would do that for you too, don’t you?” at the end can get the message across.

Equally stories from your childhood when things happened with a “I wish I had stood up for myself more because not doing the right thing felt bad afterwards” message, followed by “I will always support you when you stand up for yourself.”

And when they see it, it is even more powerful..

As a parent, you are your teenager’s biggest role model.  When you ‘walk the talk’ they see it as OK to do too.  When you stand up for yourself, do the right thing, it becomes easier for them to do too.  And you can always ask them to have your back also!!!

When your teen knows that by standing up for themselves, they will have your unconditional support, it makes it easier.  And when they do it, and you ‘walk the talk’ it builds their self esteem – knowing they made the right decision – and they are not alone!

If you would like to read the full article this idea is drawn from, you can access it here.

What is your top tip for building self esteem?

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