It’s hard to watch our teens feel insecure or see them lacking self-confidence. We want to encourage them to be more confident in themselves. So, we often have specific knee-jerk reactions to their insecurity. It’s easy to understand why.
As parents, we…
Want them to see themselves in all the wonderful ways we see them.
Know a lack of confidence can keep them from trying new things and finding their passions.
Understand how confidence is a valuable character quality and will help them be successful in life.
Fortunately, we don’t have to just watch them oozing insecurity and low self-confidence.
Here are four things you can do to help encourage an insecure teen. But first, a couple of things NOT to do.
We sometimes try these two “shortcuts to security,” but they often make matters worse.
We Over-Praise Our Teens. Teens can sniff this out right away—especially if they just finished some low-risk, easy task or they know they didn’t do their best.
We Emphasize Results Over Effort and Perseverance. Just tell them to do their best and have fun. Accept the results the way you want your teen to accept them and grow from them. (Critique behavior, NOT your teen as a person.)
Instead ofparenting your insecure teen in those ways, try doing these four things:
Be honest and vocal about your own insecurities.We all have insecurities and areas where we lack confidence. If you’re honest and talk to your teen about these things, you normalize those feelings for your teen. This is important because of what you’re going to do next…
Model how to face your insecurities and work through your lack of confidence. Let your teen hear your positive, grounded self-talk. Allow them to see how you prepare for challenges. Tell them your goals. Be mindful of how you respond to your own successes and failures.
Be a parent your teen wants to talk to and develop a healthy relationship with. This involves being available and regularly spending time with your teen. It means being a good listener and not overreacting or bombarding your teen with a million questions. Listen “between the lines” for the source(s) of their insecurity. Be gentle.
Talk to your teen about social media.Model healthy media use.Yes, social media. It impacts how your teen forms and values their identity. Talk to your teen about the “unreality” of social media and the dangers of the comparison game. Your teen is looking at someone’s staged, filtered, touched-up highlight reel and comparing it to their own “behind-the-scenes” footage.
Most of us feel insecure sometimes, but some teens feel insecure most or all of the time.
—These feelings can be because of their childhood, traumatic experiences, past failures, or rejection. You’ll want to explore all these things with your teen, but you have to be the kind of parent they’ll open up to.
—Your teen may be dealing with depression, loneliness, or social anxiety they need to see a professional about. Put counseling on the table as a positive, normal step.
—Sometimes, our perfectionism or criticism has contributed to our teen’s insecurity and lack of confidence. If you feel that may be the case,be honest with your teen, own what you need to own, and apologize.
Insecurity and low self-confidence are not “light switch” problems. You can’t just flip a switch to make your teen secure and confident. Insecurity and low self-confidence are “thermostat” problems. You can’t “dial it up” for your insecure teen, but you can encourage them. Create a healthy environment, be a role model, and open the lines of communication. Then, your teen can grow in confidence and security!
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