7 Ways to Support Teen Self-Esteem

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Thinking back to your teenage years, what do you remember most? Is it the extracurriculars, sports, socialization, and a more carefree life style? Or is it the stress, constant comparison and mean names you were called?

Over the years, it has become increasingly difficult for teens to maintain good self-esteem. Even if you were never bullied by your peers, there can be a constant battle with comparison that teens play. “Teens are constantly comparing themselves to others,” says Sarah Saysoukha, Prevention Specialist for Centerstone. “Social media has heightened this even more. Social media only shows a highlight reel of people’s lives, but seeing these highlights all the time can make you feel like you are uninteresting. It’s hard to keep up.” When teens spend time comparing themselves to others, they spend time focusing on the things they don’t like about themselves and the things they do like about others.

Beyond comparison, there are several other factors that contribute to low self-esteem for teens. Familial abuse or neglect can majorly lower one’s self-esteem. “Having a trusted adult or family member helps teens feel supported,” says Amanda McGeshick, Program Manager for Centerstone. “Therefore lacking this crucial support system also contributes to lower self-esteem, even with no history of abuse.” Other factors that can lower self-esteem are poor body image, being discriminated against because of identities you hold, bullying and mental health challenges.

How to help build teen self-esteem

Having good self-esteem helps teens in every realm of their lives. Teens with high self-esteem are able to build better relationships, set helpful boundaries, exercise self-care and make healthy decisions.

Support from trusted adults, whether family or not, is one of the biggest contributors to high self-esteem in teenagers. You reading this article is a great first step and shows that you are ready to support the teens in your life. Here are some more practical ways to help teens build self-esteem:

  1. Give them a voice. It is important for teens to feel like they are making decisions and in some control of their own lives. Work to present opportunities for them to make decisions. These can be as simple as “You have time before and after soccer practice to do homework. Which would you rather do?”
  2. Value their opinion. When there is a decision you have to be the one to make, ask for their input. Communicate that you are listening to them and that what they say does have bearing on how you make the decision.
  3. Give genuine compliments. Affirmation goes a long way. Let the teens in your life know that you appreciate who they are as people and the things they’ve accomplished. Go beyond simply saying, “I’m proud of you,” but instead make the compliments more personal.
  4. Go easy on them. We often grown more through failure than through success. Give teens the space to make mistakes, letting them know that failure is okay and can even help them succeed in the future.
  5. Let them teach you. Take an interest in their interests. Ask them to talk to you about their favorite hobby, what their friends are like or anything else that is important to them. Let them influence you.
  6. Help them with their needs. Be supportive of their needs at their stage in life. Get involved with their academics and help where they are struggling. Help them as they set necessary boundaries and make plans to accomplish their goals. Show an interest in this process and show them you care about their well-being.
  7. Connect them with further support. There may be times where teens need more support than you can offer. You can connect them with professional counselors to help with any mental health challenges they face. Help them connect with their culture and community so they feel connected to their unique identities.

If you have a teen in your life who needs extra support, Centerstone is here to help. Call us at 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) or visit centerstone.org/connect-with-us/ to get connected with care.


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