How to help a teenager with low self-esteem

A teenager struggling to fit in with friends

Being a teenager is tough. It's a time of trying to find your place in the world, while battling through the social perils of secondary school and exams.

Unfortunately, many teenagers find their self-esteem suffers during those years, and as a parent we can feel at a loss as to how to help. Here's our tips on how to help a teenager with low self-esteem:

Encourage following their passions

Interests and hobbies help young people find their sense of self and individuality. If they don't have any yet then encourage them to try lots of new things out- sports, drama, art, dancing, crafts, gymnastics, baking, writing- anything! If their chosen hobby allows them to meet different friends to those they have in school, they can also build a separate friendship group. 

Accomplishment leads to confidence 

Learning new things- even how to make themselves a simple dinner- provides a feeling of self-esteem. The same goes for doing well in something at school, or being good at a certain activity. Be sure to praise every little achievement. 

Teenager feeling sad in school corridor

Praise the effort, too

Effort is just as important as accomplishment. Trying hard at school, at their favourite sport or at learning to ride a bike are all accomplishments in themselves. Celebrating these is vital for teen self-esteem. 

Encourage self-care

In the same way that adults need to know how to look after themselves emotionally and physically, so do kids. The teen years can be an emotional time, and self-esteem and self-respect comes from taking care of themselves. Encourage them to find ways to soothe their emotions- check out our self-soothe box guide. They might also enjoy relaxing rituals, like having a bath, listening to music, or having some quiet time to themselves. 

Teach self-kindness

As a teen it can be easy to beat yourself up, particularly when faced with exposure to advertising and social media. Self-kindness has been proven to actually change the way a person feels about themselves, making it a valuable tool for vulnerable teens. Encourage your teenager to write down 5 good things about themselves every day- and if they can't think of anything, help them. Everything from 'good at baking cakes' to 'kind to other people' counts. 

Teenager feeling sad in school corridor

Spend time with others

School can be rough for many teenagers. Make sure that your child is around people outside of school- family, friends, neighbours and others from the community. Look for clubs they could join that align with their interests which offer further opportunities for finding new friends. 

Try, try and try again

Feeling low about ourselves can sometimes come from an experience of failure- for teens that might mean struggling at school or having difficulty learning a new skill. Reframing those struggles as 'challenges' rather than failures can help avoid negative self-talk. Try sharing with your teenager a time when you to try repeatedly at something before it worked out for you- it happens to us all. 

Standing their ground

From a young age, it helps to teach kids to have independent thought and stand up for themselves. This is especially important at secondary schools where social relations can be fraught. 

Communicate your love for them

All kids- even big ones- need to hear 'I love you' from their parents. You can also get specific with what you love about them, e.g. 'I love that you are good at writing stories.' Hearing specific good characteristics about themselves helps to boost their sense of worth and self-esteem.

Related articles from Spurgeons

View all
Mental Health Awareness Week 2024
Happy family, to mark Mental Health Awareness week
Mental Health Awareness Week 2024
Making your Mental Health a Priority
Two pairs of hands gently holding a heart to symbolise the importance of prioritising mental health
Making your Mental Health a Priority
Peer Pressure and Teenage Friendships
Two teenage friends sat together at the top of a skate park ramp
Peer Pressure and Teenage Friendships