A teenage girl comforting her friend

Low self-esteem is common in teens, but it can be difficult to determine whether low self-esteem is a symptom of something more. Luckily, you can have a positive influence on your teen and help them build healthy self-esteem.

Here are three of the main contributors to low self-esteem in teens, along with the things a parent can do to help with each challenge.

1. Having Trouble Understanding Moods and Emotions

Teens have difficulty identifying feelings, responding to feelings, and remembering that feelings are not permanent. Adults struggle with this, too; however, for a teen, these experiences of emotional turmoil are much more intense. This makes a teen feel confused, inadequate, or isolated.

A teen may feel unable to ask for the help that they need. Low self-esteem makes a teen extremely vulnerable. Depression and anxiety can be hard to spot in teens because of the common stereotype that all teens are moody.

Tools for Understanding Moods and Emotions

Give your teen time to process an emotion. Encourage your teen to be kind to themselves and not to be afraid to feel angry or sad. Show them these things with your behavior, not just your words. You are constantly modeling to your teen the way in which emotions like anger, sadness, or frustration are handled.

Provide opportunities for your teen to learn to address emotions. For example, a therapist for teens could help them to identify the tools that are most useful for them. This can prevent future depression and anxiety problems, especially if you are already seeing signs like self-deprecating comments or a change in behaviors and habits.

2. Being Stuck in Negative Thought Patterns

Low self-esteem often goes hand-in-hand with excessive worry, anxiety and/or negativity. Expecting the worst harms your teen’s sense of possibility or capability, creating a negative cycle of thoughts and actions.

For example, your teen may anticipate that a test will go poorly and, as a result, avoid trying or studying. Low self-esteem is often mistaken as laziness in teens because this tendency toward a lack of positive action when thinking negatively.

Negative patterns of thinking often become a habit for teens as they learn to make sense of the adult world. Your teen may quickly develop negative beliefs about themselves or about the world.

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