Understanding and Supporting Your Teen’s Self-Esteem

Jill Holtz

June 12, 2012


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This excerpt from Parenting Positively: Teenage Wellbeing booklet, available to download free from Barnardos gives tips for parents on promoting your teen’s wellbeing and building their confidence and self-esteem. It also points out how to spot worrying behaviour and gives tips to parents for looking after themselves as well.

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Confidence and self esteem

I used to point out the things my son did wrong, like getting poor marks in one of his subjects. Now I pay more attention to the other results and would compliment him more about things in general. I can’t believe the change it has made to our relationship.’ (Mary, parent of a 14-year old boy)

How can I help my teenager to feel more confident and happy about themselves?

A little bit of praise and encouragement will go a long way towards your child’s confidence and self-esteem. Notice their achievements, no matter how small, whether it is with school work, sports, hobbies or how they get on with family and friends. Remember, all children are unique and special. Point out what is special about your child and let them know you love them without conditions.

My teenager is very influenced by friends and what they think. Is this normal?


Having friends is very important to teenagers; it is a normal part of growing up. Healthy friendships based on trust and support can have a very positive influence on them. Peer influence can be positive and motivating. However, some teenagers can experience negative peer pressure and bullying.

Having regular communication with your child will help you to pick up on the type of impact peers are having on them. Tune into your child’s feelings and use the active listening skill described above, especially if you have concerns. Talk to teachers if bullying is occurring at school and also potentially to the parents of the child who is bullying. Get support for yourself if you feel you need it.

You may also enjoy – 10 Important Pieces of Advice to Give Your Teenage Son & 10 Important Things Your Should Tell Your Teenage Daughter & 20 Important Things You Should Tell Your Teen.

How to Spot Worrying Behaviour


Here’s a list a list of worrying behaviours to look out for in all teenagers. It is important to get professional advice when a teenager shows signs of these and you are concerned.

  • Becoming withdrawn and losing interest in friends, sport or favourite activities.
  • Having changes in sleep patterns such as not sleeping or sleeping for long periods.
  • Avoiding food, over eating and/or excessively exercising.
  • Seeming to be preoccupied or obsessed about a particular issue.
  • Having a change in mood, becoming hostile or having feelings of anxiety or depression.
  • Having a sudden drop in school work.
  • Doing things that don’t make sense to others.
  • Seeing or hearing things that nobody else sees or hears.
  • Being excessively tired or neglecting personal hygiene.
  • Wearing long sleeved clothes in hot weather and avoiding places like swimming pools. It may suggest they are hiding signs of self harm.

Self Care for Parents

Understanding teenage development goes a long way in coping with the ups and downs of parenting teenagers.

  • Take time out for yourself to do things you have always enjoyed such as reading, visiting friends, exercise, cinema and so on.
  • Talk to friends who have teenagers and get a perspective on the issues. Talking to the parents of your teenager’s friends may be helpful in terms of information sharing and mutual support.
  • Try to lighten up and bring a bit of humour to the job.
  • See if there is a parenting course in your area.
  • Seek out help for yourself in other areas of your life such as with relationship, budgeting, housing, bereavement, bullying, separation etc.

More information for teenagers on well-being is available on www.barnardos.ie/teenhelp

Related: Survival Guide for Teenagers : How to Live with Parents and Tips for Parenting Teens

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