Overcoming Low Self-Esteem in Teens

Overcoming Low Self-Esteem in Teens

6 Powerful Strategies for Positive Connection

Adolescence is one of the most challenging life stages we experience. There is so much change and new responsibilities. And it also happens to be the years when we are dealing with a surge of hormones and feelings for the first time – all without a fully formed frontal cortex.

Sounds fun, right?!

It is easy to see how low self-esteem in teens could be a problem.

Let’s be honest, it is still a problem as adults! But for teenagers, a misplaced statement, hurtful word, or negative inner monologue can be life-changing.

Here’s an example…

When I was in High School, a well-meaning adult made a comment that has stuck with me for over 15 years. A teacher told me that I could have been a “lipstick model” if my top lip was a little bigger to balance out the bottom.

Writing this now, it sounds silly. And I know this was supposed to be a compliment, but what narrative do you think my teen brain thought?

“My lips are unbalanced.”
“I am imperfect the way I am.”
“If I want to be beautiful, I will have to change myself.”

Do you see how easy it is for something so small to have a lasting impact?

Low self-esteem can stem from trauma, criticism, societal expectations, negative self-talk, and hurtful words (especially attacks on identity).

So what can we do? How can we help teens improve their self-esteem?​

There isn’t an easy answer, especially when we can’t control every single thing teens hear or think in a day, but these tips are a good place to start in combatting low self-esteem!

Believe the best in your teens.

All teens have gifts and strengths. They are worthy and valuable. When we treat them with respect and out of a place of positivity, they are more likely to believe in themselves as well.

Show unconditional love and encouragement.

Don’t only compliment them when they do the big things well. Find small ways every day to point out the good in them. It is even better if you encourage them based on who they are at their core, not simply based on looks or actions.

Speak positively.

I am going to make up a stat here…but let’s say that to combat every negative comment, your teen needs to hear 10 positive comments. This goes back to believing the best, but that will overflow to how you speak to and about them. Make an effort to use positive, life-giving words to teens.

Talk through actions and thoughts in a non-judgmental way.

Failures are an opportunity to grow! Minimize shame by helping them move forward when mistakes are made. Ask good questions and be a resource when they need it.

Model positive self-talk.

This one is tough, but if you have low self-esteem, the teens in your life will also be negatively affected. Make sure that you are careful of the words you use around teens, even when you aren’t talking about them! They pick up on everything. For example, if you make a negative comment about yourself, they might internally ask, “If they think that is ugly, then what do they think of me?”

Challenge negative thought patterns.

When you hear them talk down about themselves or repeat disparaging words, use it as an opportunity to compliment them. If they are hard on themselves, try saying, “Hey, I am not going to let you talk about my friend like that!” We are often meaner to ourselves than to others.

Self-esteem is vital, and we need to do our best to surround teenagers with positivity and support! Find a way to encourage a teen this week with a positive word, thoughtful text, or small celebration. They deserve it!

Self-esteem is vital, and we need to do our best to surround teenagers with positivity and support! Find a way to encourage a teen this week with a positive word, thoughtful text, or small celebration. They deserve it!

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

More Resources You Might Like

How to Change Negative Thoughts into Constructive Ones
talking with teens about self-esteem
black and white image of girl staring down into mirror with text: 5 ways to combat the self-esteem issue

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Heather & Jade Talk Teen Pregnancy

Heather & Jade Talk Teen Pregnancy

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Two stories of teen pregnancy converge

In this re-edited interview from 2016, Chris and Karlie are joined by Heather and Jade to talk about their stories both separately and as they intertwine.

As a young teen mom, Jade was connected with Heather, who offered her much-needed support and encouragement. Heather was able to provide hope and a new perspective through the lens of her own teen pregnancy.

Even 7 years after this interview, it remained one of our top-played episodes.

You won’t want to miss this timeless wisdom on the joys and challenges of teen parenthood.

In this episode, you’ll find out…

  • Two different stories about teen pregnancy and parenthood.
  • Ways to support and encourage teen parents.
  • What it is like to be a teen parent while trying to finish school.
  • The importance of mentors and friends in the life of a teen parent.

Ask yourself…

  • Have I sat down and asked someone else’s story lately?
  • How can I better support and encourage a teen parent?
  • Who has made a difference in my own life?

Go ask a teen…

  • Who has supported you the most?
  • What is the biggest joy of being a parent?
  • How can I help support and encourage you?
Advice for teen parents:
  • Get counseling or therapy if you need it.
  • Stay in school!
  • You can do it! There is support out there for you.
  • Your best is good enough.

For people supporting teen parents:
  • Offer to help, and keep offering even when they say no!
  • Be inclusive when you can. It is hard for teen moms to find where they fit and belong.
  • Show up!
  • Let them vent without telling them what to do.
  • Be vulnerable and let them know that you genuinely care about them.

Heather and Jade at our podcast recording to talk about teen pregnancy

Resources for teenage parents:

  • If you or someone you know is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, Pregnancy Help 4 U can help.
  • If you are someone who works with student-aged parents, reach out to program@teenlife.ngo for more information about our Support Group Curriculum designed for teen parents!
  • Original music by Luke Cabrera and Tobin Hodges.

Have a question?

If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!

About Us

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Heather Gradke

Heather Gradke

Special Guest

Jade Rains

Jade Rains

Special Guest

More Resources You Might Like

Teen Pregnancy with Charlotte Smiley
Dating Relationships & Streaming Services
Episode 26: Dating & Suicide Terms

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4 Ways to Nurture Teen Focus

4 Ways to Nurture Teen Focus

Improving the attention span of teenagers can positively impact their futures.

Recently on the Teen Life Podcast, we had a conversation about how short attention spans are even affecting the way teens consume sporting events and other media. Gone are the days when teens would watch long movies like Lord of the Rings or settle in for a full day of watching sports on the couch. Highlight reels, TikToks, and TV series have made it easy for teens to quickly pop in and feel like they haven’t missed anything important.

But is this sustainable for the real world or a future job? Teens still need to develop their attention spans!

Whether you’re a teacher or a parent, fostering focus and patience in teenagers can significantly impact their well-being.

Here are four ways to help teenagers slow down and harness their attention spans effectively.

Create a Distraction Free Environment

The first step to help teenagers improve their attention spans is to create a calming environment where they have the space and time to focus. Both at home and in the classroom, minimize distractions. Encourage a quiet, organized space for studying and other fun activities. Turn off notifications on electronic devices, or establish screen-free zones during specific hours. This approach can help teens concentrate on tasks without constantly seeking external stimulation.

Encourage Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness practices can be a game-changer for teenagers. Teach them the value of being present in the moment. Simple meditation exercises or deep breathing techniques can help reduce anxiety and improve concentration. Listen to our podcast episodes on meditation and breathing techniques to learn how you can help teens practice these calming exercises.

Set Realistic Goals and Timelines

Teenagers often struggle with the concept of time management. It’s crucial to help them set realistic goals and timelines for their activities. Encourage them to break tasks into smaller, manageable steps and allocate specific time blocks for each. This approach not only improves focus but also boosts their confidence as they achieve their goals. Task gamification might be something you want to try. It is an excellent way to help teens be more productive while keeping it fun!

Be a Role Model

Your role as a parent, teacher, or helper is essential in shaping a teenager’s behavior. Be a role model by demonstrating the importance of slowing down and focusing. Engage in activities that require concentration, such as cooking or baking, and involve your teenagers in the process. Share your love for reading with them and encourage them to explore books. Turn off devices while watching a movie, playing a game, or driving in the car.

Are you up for the challenge?

By creating distraction-free environments, promoting mindfulness, setting realistic goals, and being a positive role model, caring adults can equip teenagers with the skills they need to focus and succeed.

Will you accept this attention span challenge? How will you slow down yourself this week?

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Ep. 110: Perfectionism

Ep. 110: Perfectionism

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Perfectionism can have a negative impact on a teenager’s mental health if left unchecked. In episode 110, Karlie talks about ways to identify perfectionist behavior, what to say and how to help teens channel perfectionist tendencies for the best.

In this episode, we mentioned or used the following resources:

Have a question? If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
About Us:
Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and has always had a heart for teenagers and the vulnerable life stage they are in. She has a wealth of experience to share from working with teens in ministry and leading support groups.

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Imitation as a Form of Habit-Creation

Imitation as a Form of Habit-Creation

As a Teen Life team, we have been reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits. It has been eye-opening not just for forming personal habits, but it has also given me a lot to think about it when it comes to how teenagers form habits and even key beliefs.

It will come as no surprise, but one thing that makes a huge impact on our habits is our environment and the culture we are raised in. We tend to imitate the habits and beliefs around us. Where this becomes an issue for our kids and teenagers is that they don’t get much choice in the home or environment they are raised in.

As adults, we pass on our expectations and rules to the kids in our sphere of influence. We set the habits that they will imitate. We pass on the script of what is important, where they should focus their attention, and how they should behave on a day-to-day basis.

In his book, James Clear talks about several reasons we imitate those around us, but the simple truth is that the most attractive behaviors are those that help us fit in and feel like we are part of the group. He talks about three groups that we tend to imitate: the close, the many, and the powerful. However, when it comes to teenagers, I want to focus on the first two and how we can help our kids imitate the right behaviors at the right time.

Imitating the Close

We all know the couples that start to look like each other the longer they are married. Or the families who have the same mannerisms. The closer we are to someone, the more we are going to take on their habits as our own. This is a great concept when you are surrounded by people who love you and have healthy habits themselves.

We talk a lot about peer pressure for adolescents. But peer pressure is usually only a bad thing when they are surrounded by negative influences. Teenagers might not be able to choose who they live with or how their family acts, but they can choose which friends they spend time with. Who they choose hang out with matters!

It is important that we encourage teenagers to join a culture and group that has positive habits. If they want to be successful in the classroom, they need to find friends who make good grades. If a sport or extracurricular activity is important to them, they should hang out with people who are motivated in the same way. As James says, “Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You’ll rise together.”

Imitating the Many

In addition to imitating those we are closest too, we also tend to follow the crowd in order to fit in. Think about it – if you are in a situation where you don’t know what to do or where to go, what is your first instinct? You will probably look around and do what the people around you are doing. It is often easier to go with the flow than try to stand out.

This is especially important for teens who live in a world where fitting in impacts social status, friendships, and self-esteem. However, as James Clear points out, “The reward of being accepted is often greater than the reward of winning an argument, looking smart, or finding the truth. Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.”

While we can all admit that there is a pull to get along with others and not rock the boat, it is concerning that we would rather be wrong or change our beliefs than go against the environment we find ourselves in. For teens, going against their culture, school, friends, family, etc. requires more effort than following the habits around them. Which is why sometimes they have to change their environment before they can change a particular habit.

We all have habits we wish to break or create to make us better. Habit-forming is especially important for our teenagers. Some of the habits they create now will stick around for the rest of their lives. While we can’t do the hard work of habit creation for them, here are a few ways you can help make their environment more conducive for positive habits.

  • Create and model healthy habits yourself – have the habits you want your kids or students to imitate.
  • Encourage teens to join groups that share similar passions and goals.
  • Foster a safe environment where teens want to gather – it could be your home, your classroom, or your youth ministry. Let’s help them find positive influences in a safe place!
  • Be intentional about what adults are in your teen’s life. Ask who they would want talk to. Surround them with consistent, caring influences.

Let’s be advocates for teenagers, the environments they are living in, and the habits they are forming!

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.