Tell them you love them

What if I said that according to a study, those with high self-esteem may have more relationship problems because when difficulties arise they see the other person as 'the problem' or that teens with high self-esteem are less inhibited and are therefore more likely to engage in risky behaviors, or even that high self-esteem is linked with aggressive and violent behavior? Phew, that's a lot to take in! The idea behind this "study" is that when we get caught up in defending the idea that we're awesome, or important, or whatever, we often make poor choices. What we should be teaching our children is actually this thing called "authentic self-esteem."

Authentic Self-esteem is the kind of self-esteem that doesn't come from being told that we're awesome. It comes from doing good things and being a good person. That is the kind of self-esteem our teenagers need to overcome the challenges they experience around body image, schooling, relationships, and even alcohol.

Build on your Strengths.

Can your teenager tell you his or her strengths? Can you identify yours? Or theirs? Knowing what our strengths are and using them regularly (every day preferably) is strongly associated with wellbeing. This is powerful for building wellbeing and resilience. This has nothing to do with arrogance, but being positive and proud of your strengths or things you're good at.

Give them more positive interactions.

Relationships flourish when we get more positive interactions than negative interaction. Count how positive you are with your teen. We can help them develop an authentic sense of worth and value by doing simple things like saying thank you, letting them know that we really are glad to see them (and meaning it), touching, hugging, and smiling.

Love them.

The way our teens feel about themselves is, to a large extent, built upon the quality of their relationship with you. Everyone needs to know, without question, that they are wanted, they are loved, and that even when we are being driven insane by them, they are valued by us.

Show your teenager that they're worthy of your time and love. Tell them you love them. Tell them that you were excited when you found out they'd be part of your life back when they were conceived, and you feel that way now. Every child needs to know they're wanted and loved in spite of their shortcomings. This is what helps them feel a powerful sense of identity, value, and the kind of worth that isn't going to make them feel they have to be better than everyone else.

Trying to boost self-esteem by simply telling them how great they are doesn't help our children. But helping them identify their strengths and use them, interacting with them like they're real people who matter, and telling them we love them and that they matter to us can create a sense of self that builds wellbeing and it builds kids who are resilient, and who can bounce back from some of the hard stuff teenagers have to deal with.

Lorena Frith

Lifestyle Photographer in Houston, Texas

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