For teens it seems like everyone else is confident and successful … except them.

The teen years can be a very difficult time. For teenagers, the changes in their physical body and their hormonal changes can create a lack of self confidence and self esteem. Imagine how your teen’s bodily changes verses the perceived norm or desired change can affect your teen’s self image. Now add in the increased pressure to fit in within their social structure and the pressures of school. Yes, the teen years are not easy.

So how can you help your teens build a strong and health sense of self esteem and not graduate from teenager to young adult with a sense of inadequacy? How can you help build a realistic sense of self and self acceptance? How do you help build a sense of self that is not so low it impedes your teen’s accomplishments?

First, listen to your teen; try to determine how your teen feels. Does he or she express feeling of inferiority? When your teen succeeds at a task, does he or she minimize the success with comments like: the teacher made the test too easy, I was just lucky or I expect to do this good again? When your teen views his or her actions as less than successful does he or she put themselves down with comments like: I’m just not college material, with my body type I should not even have tried or why do I even try, I never get anything right?

Second, watch your teen’s actions. Does your teen act as if he or she lacks the confidence to believe they can really make a difference in their lives? Is he or she withdrawn from social and school activities? Do you notice your teen developing self protecting personality traits? Has your teen become overly critical of others, sarcastic, mean, angry, or very passive?

Ok, so your teenager shows some of the warning signs, what can a parent do? Lecturing your teenager won’t work. You need to provide passive reinforcements of a positive healthy self image.

What expectations are you creating for your teenager? Are you creating expectations of your teen that unattainable? Are your standards reasonable? Setting too high expectations may cause your teen to believe they can never do enough. Most teens set high internal standards for themselves. Talk with your teenager about the goals he or she has set. Help them to think about their goals, their expectations of meeting their goals and their reactions if they don’t. Be consistent in your expectations. Don’t shy away from your explaining your expectations.

How do you talk about yourself? You may not believe it, but your teens are watching and they are still developing patterns from your actions. Don’t say negative or self-defeating things about yourself around your teen. Be careful not to teach your teens to use negative self talk.

Encourage always and praise less. Do you know the difference between praise and encouragement? Praise is defined as: to express approval or admiration of; to commend; to extol or the state of being approved or admired. Encourage is defined as: to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence; to stimulate by assistance, approval; to promote, advance, or foster. When your teen gets an “A” do you praise or encourage him or her? Praise – You are so smart, I am so proud of you for getting an A. So are you not proud of your teen when he or she puts in 100% effort and gets a B? Encourage - You put a lot of effort in preparing for that test. Good job! Voice your approval by pointing out what your teen has control over.

Most importantly, make sure you communicate your love to your teenager every day in many ways!

Cheryl and Dennis are counselors at Discovery Counseling and you can reach them at

Author's Bio: 

After spending 25 years building a CPA/Litigation Support practice, Dennis moved to use these skills in a counseling environment. The founder of Discovery Counseling, Dennis is a Board Certified Licensed Mental Health Counselor in both Florida and Virginia. He received his business degree from George Washington University in Washington DC and received his MA in Counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary.

Cheryl Eastlund-Gowin is a professional counselor with Discovery Counseling. This is a second career for Cheryl; prior to moving into the counseling arena she held an executive level management position in corporate America. Cheryl has always enjoyed teaching and helping people. She brings life experience to individuals, couples and families as they struggle with issues of daily life.