Building Self-Esteem Key In Adolescence

“In case you’re worried about what going to become of the younger generation, it’s going to grow up and start worrying about the younger generation.”Roger Allen

Unlike other periods in a child’s life, adolescence can be is a particularly trying time for parents and their charges alike. It’s a time for charting new horizons on the physical, intellectual and psycho social plane.

Depending on how well adolescents cope with these changes will determine how smooth a transition they make into adulthood and becoming productive citizens. That’s why it’s important that parents do all they can to assist in surmounting this hurdle. After all, you’ve already travelled this road yourself.

Self-esteem is paramount as this is a particularly sensitive time in development when your teenager will be seeking reinforcement more from peers. Depending on his/her standing with them a sense of superiority or inferiority may develop.

Expectedly, there will be conflict as the adolescent becomes progressively independent, and the parent tries to keep the reigns of control. Being an autocratic or domineering parent can do untold harm by stifling a teenager’s self-expression and attempts at independence.

Parenting style

In this enlightened age, with all the parental advice and tips out there – and readily available from PAREDOS, ignorance is not a plausible defense. Some of you may still rely on the “Do as I say and not as I do” approach, and this, alone, can cause feelings of inferiority). If a parent is too demanding and overly critical, this can erode self-esteem. It may be one parent or both, but either way it has a negative result.

Some young people are constantly insulted and ridiculed for their “incompetence” in everyday tasks. Calling a teenage “idiot”, “clumsy” and making comments such as “What are you doing that for?”, “Don’t you see you can’t do it?” or “Any fool can do THAT!” can impact on your child and  develop an inferiority complex and prevent him/ her from forming a balanced character.

In the transition to full independence, to cultivate a sense of self-worth, special care must be taken not to make the young person feel incompetent or useless, for example, if school grades are not the best, or he/she receives a poor conduct report. Don’t make the mistake of comparing his abilities to that of another sibling or school mate, or you’re on a sure-fire path to shutting him/her down and erecting a communication barrier.

Conversely, any talents and interests exhibited should be encouraged. And remember, your child should not be bullied or bulldozed into pursuing a career YOU prefer over one to which what he/she is naturally inclined.

 Other factors

An adolescent’s particular life circumstances can also contribute to a lack of self-esteem. If the family is facing financial hardship or budget constraints, he/she may feel embarrassed vis à vis more affluent peers since he/she may not be able to have the latest clothes and gadgets, and be able to go to popular events. Some adolescents resort to stealing or other negative behavioural patterns such as substance abuse, or more serious crimes to fit in or get the attention of peers or parents.

The same goes if the adolescent  has a heath condition or physical defect. Teenagers can be terribly cruel to someone they see as the “odd one out”, especially since they are also trying to assert themselves and build self-esteem. In such circumstances, parents need to give as much support as they can to stem the surge of negative influences.

Adolescence is a time of awkwardness and self-consciousness with the pressing need to fit in the popular group and be accepted by peers.  A big concern at this delicate stage is physical appearance. A small break-out on the face can seem a huge catastrophe and the wise parent will handle these little “crises” with sensitivity.

Parents also need to be careful not to shame their teenager socially, particularly with the opposite sex and dating. As this is a time of immense curiosity, sexual matters should be discussed openly, and not covered up. It’s better that YOU give them the facts and advice than they seek it out from friends or the internet, which may present a distorted view of human sexuality. Your response in these situations will determine just how must trust they bestow on you as they move into adulthood.

Remember, the ties you forge in infancy, childhood and adolescence will determine the quality of relationship you have with your offspring as adults. You don’t want to suffer their resentment or apathy in your later years because of hurts inflicted in earlier life.

So as challenging as all this is, you have the responsibility to help mould your teenager’s development and steer him/her in a positive direction – one that will produce a confident and well-adjusted adult. Then you can look back with satisfaction and pride on those trying years and know it was all worth it.

Rosemarie Layne

Rosemarie Layne is the holder of an Associate Degree in Mass Communication and a certified Early Childhood Educator. A wholistic health advocate, certified in 2nd Degree Reiki, she owns and operates Rose's Wellness Hub. She is also a private language tutor at Personal Touch Language Services and the Principal of La Bella Rosa School of Dance Arts.