Self-Esteem: Increasing Confidence in Tweens and Teens

parentingages and stages

Do you remember a point in your life when you were full of confidence? You were invincible, or so it seemed. And the world was full of endless opportunities for you to simply reach out and grab. Opportunities that would all result in fabulous results. Your self-esteem was higher than a kite. Only you didn't really know it. Sound familiar?

I love this picture of my niece. She should be the poster child for self-esteem. At age 4, she fully believes she is like Wonder Woman. Beautiful. Powerful. Unstoppable. And don't you agree that she is?


It's only when you get a little older that you look back and wonder what happened to that person? And you realize that somewhere along the way, you lost part of her... the confident part. Maybe you had life hit you between the eyes, showing you that you weren't so invincible. Or maybe you took advantage of some of those amazing opportunities only to have them not turn out so fabulous. Or, maybe something or someone (yourself included) stopped you from being so unstoppable. Maybe you determined you didn't look so hot in your Wonder Woman costume and took it off for good, losing all of the positive attributes that went along with it. And all at once, or even just a moment at a time, you arrived at a point where you lost that self-esteem you once had.

4 Ways to Help Your Tweens and Teens Build Their Self-Esteem

I have been following Dove's Self Esteem Project (brilliant of them to focus on this, right?), for years. I especially like this website with various self-esteem-building resources. One of my favorites is a workbook geared to educators, including activities and ideas for building self-esteem. As the parent of a 12-year-old boy, I find it incredibly useful. It focuses on helping kids build their body confidence, but I think it is great for helping us parents help our kids build self-esteem in general. As stated in their workbook, their social mission is:

To encourage all women and girls to develop a positive relationship with beauty, helping to raise their self-esteem, and thereby enabling them to realize their full potential.

While the overarching mission is geared to women and girls, this particular workbook is applicable for all tweens and teens, both boys and girls, ages 11-14.

The good news is that regardless of how you are feeling about yourself today, it is never too late to start developing or building your self-esteem. The workbook encourages these four ways to do so, which you can share with your child(ren):

  1. Choose to have self-esteem. Make the choice to develop self-esteem as a lifeskill. Self-esteem plays a role in how you act and react to life's circumstances. It also impacts the decisions you make. The sooner you can learn to develop your self-esteem and the more emphasis you put on building it, the better you will be able to act and react in healthy ways as well as make positive choices.
  2. Surround yourself with positive influences. By identifying what makes you feel good about yourself and including those things in your life, you can support yourself when times are hard. Examples of things that make you feel good about yourself can include: activities, places, hobbies, friends or family, food, traditions, etc.
  3. Remove negative influences or replace them with positive influences. Identify negative influences. In very much the same way that positive things can increase your self-esteem, negative influence can decrease your self-esteem. Take look at the things around you and determine whether they build you up. Pay close attention to things like the media, stylized media, and even toys or games. Make a choice to remove the negative influences from your life and replace them with those that are positive.
  4. Use and surround yourself with positive communication. Communication plays a significant role in building or destroying self-esteem. Differentiating between positive and negative communication and using and surrounding yourself with the former will increase your self-esteem.

I'd like to add to this list the importance of giving kids opportunities. Helping them understand that growth and resiliency are more important than "success" or "failure," can lead to increased self-esteem as well.

What are your top tips for helping kids develop and build their self-esteem?

Disclosure: This post in no way was sponsored or endorsed by Dove or Unilever. The content is based loosely on the materials found in its Self-Esteem Workshop Guide.

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4 responses to “Self-Esteem: Increasing Confidence in Tweens and Teens”

  1. Amy says:

    Thanks for those thoughts!

    I have a picture of myself in a Wonder Woman costume when I was a little girl, too! I need to pull that out and put it on my mirror as a reminder that I’m a super hero underneath all my mom clothes. 🙂

    I agree that we lose our ability to connect with our confidence and inner voice as we grow up. It’s so important to channel those super parts of ourselves and let them shine! I try not to stifle things in my son that aren’t disrespectful or harmful so he can feel good about the person he is.

  2. Dr Carol says:

    Nice article.
    Kids tend to keep up this level of confidence till around 4th grade. Fourth grade is the tipping point for confidence building that sticks. Here is more on that subject.

    An activity that I encourage for tween and teens is to build a mentor collage of all the strong people they look up to in life. It’s a visual reminder that provides comfort and strength and builds self-esteem. Here is how to build one.

  3. I am a huge, huge, huge fan of making sure that my teens and tweens have great self confidence!! My tippy toppest tip is to make sure that my kids know that it is ok to be the amazing person that God has created them to be and that there is not another like them. The other thing is that I like to remind them of the great plans God has for there know with so much crisis in the world it can get scary and start to wonder if they can make it in this crazy mixed up world…I like to remind them they can!!! Great post!!

  4. Love them. Tell them you love them. Often. Hug them. Like you mean it. Teach them to appreciate the many non-physical characteristics that are beautiful, whether it’s their ability to make people laugh, their compassion for animals, ability to sing, etc. Support them in new endeavors. Encourage them to build a network of people of all different ages. Help them have wings.

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