If you have a teenager who struggles with self-esteem, my guest blogger Nicole Burgess, LMFT, has some great tips on ways you can model self-acceptance and help your teen grow into a confident and compassionate adult.
How Parents Can Help Their Teens Build Self-Worth
by Nicole Burgess, LMFT
Being a parent is a difficult job and it gets even more challenging during the teenage years. This is a developmental stage where teens are trying to figure out who they are, where they fit in and wanting to spend more time with their peers than their parents.
Parents have the incredible opportunity and responsibility to model the art of making mistakes with self-compassion. Being able to speak openly and compassionately about your mistakes, in addition to your successes, with your teenager helps them understand no one, not even a parent, is perfect.
Life rarely goes as planned.
When role modeling the art of accepting mistakes, parents can help teach humility, grace and self-acceptance. The future we envision for ourselves can change, be derailed or become something we could not have anticipated. Grace and self-acceptance of ourselves and our unique journeys can help. Modeling your willingness to release the details of how those dreams/desires will exactly unfold is a gift.
The teen girls I work with in my practice feel the pressures of trying to be perfect or over achieving, which they falsely believe defines who they are in life. They have fears that failing a test or a class will mean not getting into college. They worry that being “weird” will prevent them from making or keeping friends. They strive for approval from their parents in all their decisions or struggle to say “No” for fear of disappointing someone. They are stressed out and overwhelmed and do not think they are lovable or worthy.
We have no control over how others perceive us.
Others may think we’re “weird”, or “nerdy”, or “stupid”. That doesn’t make these labels true. But teens feel a strong need to fit in.
Teens still to want their parents to love and accept them. But, in our relationships, it’s inevitable that we will disappoint others from time to time.
For parents to ease this pressure that is alive in our culture, please continue to share your imperfections, vulnerabilities, joys and sorrows with your teenager. Show them you love them by listening to them, letting them know you want to take away their hurts, and even though you can’t, you are there for them and support them.This helps them continue to have empathy with others, self-compassion with themselves and create a more loving world.
Ways parents can model feeling “good enough”:
- Share feelings in a respectful way. Use “I” statements. For example, if your daughter borrowed your hairdryer and not returned it, you could say:“When I can’t find my hairdryer, I feel frustrated because looking for it makes me late for work. Please return it when you are done using it.”
- Listen to one another with an open heart and reflect what you are hearing without fixing or judging. For example, if your daughter had a conflict with a friend you might reply: “You seem worried and hurt about the disagreement you had with Susie. What are you wanting or needing from her or your friendship?”
- Make amends when boundaries are crossed.
- Teach empathy by showing compassion when either you or your teen makes a mistake.
- Practice gratitude daily. Share the things you’re grateful for with your teenager.
- Show through your actions and words that you feel worthy and “good enough”. By seeing your self-worth, your teen is more likely to learn that they are enough, too.
As you and your teen continue the journey of the imperfect family, know that you both are enough and are loved by one another.
About the author: Nicole Burgess is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Indianapolis. She empowers teen girls and women by helping them manage feelings of overwhelmed or stressed out through empathetic connection. She hosts the podcast “Launching Your Daughter” to support parents and caregivers in preparing their teen daughters as they transition into adulthood. You can fin Nicole on Facebook and Twitter.
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