Your teen has an endless list of stressors that he’s faced with throughout the day. It’s understandable if these life pressures take a toll on him and he starts to get a bit down on himself. Instead of simply fixing the problem for him, give him plenty of learning opportunities on how to help himself feel better and view the world a bit more optimistically.
Set a good example. Many parents forget that children and teenagers learn quite a bit from watching their parents, which is easy to forget when they seem to be ignoring you completely. Make positive comments about yourself and use kind words when talking about others. Look at life in an optimistic light and voice it. If you catch your teen talking down to himself, remind him that optimism is a choice. Add humor throughout the day when you can.
Check in frequently with your teen, ask him how he’s doing and learn to be a good listener. Don’t take “No,” “Yes” or “Uh-huh” as an answer; ask open-ended questions. Respect him for the person that he is and remember that he is not you. Keep an open mind as he talks about subjects that he is passionate about or when he vents his frustrations. When he talks to you, look him in the eye, sit close and try to keep quite. When you show him respect, he learns what respect looks like and he may just show you some respect in return.
Praise openly and honestly. The difference between praising your teen and praising a toddler is that the teenager can smell insincerity a mile away. Don’t praise the person; praise the action. If you teen studied for hours for his history exam, but still received a lower grade than expected, compliment the effort he put into it, not the grade. If your teen doesn’t shy away from your praise, do it often. Kind words, smiles, high fives, shoulder squeezes and pats on the backs can all help boost his self-esteem. Remember to say what you mean and mean what you say.
Encourage your teen to find something that truly interests him and to follow that passion. Finding something that he’s good at will do wonders for his self-esteem and confidence. The American Academy of Pediatrics points out that you may want to wait to invest large amounts of money for teenage interests until he finds something he’s going to stick with. Otherwise, you may break the bank buying all new gear and come to find out a week later that your teen has changed his mind.
Offer your teen plenty of choices throughout the day. By giving him a say in his life, you are quietly showing him that you trust him to make his own choices and respect his decision. This fosters his freedom, independence and self-confidence. It also helps avoid those all-to-familiar teenage power struggles. When he makes a choice that ends in a failure or doesn’t exactly go as planned, stay away from the “I told you so” mentality. Simply ask him what he learned from that choice and what he will do next time.
Include your teen in household discussions and ask him for his opinion. Involve him in everyday decisions, such as what to have for dinner or what color he thinks you should paint the bathroom. This shows that you value his opinion and he’s an important part of the family.