How to raise a confident, happy teen

There's no denying that the teenage years are some of the hardest to navigate. Between peer pressure, societial expectations and body changes, having the confidence to be yourself is not always something that comes easily or naturally. 

This is really about how a teen thinks of themselves. Self-appraisal with teens is often distorted.  It may be come as a surprise that teens actually look to their parents first to assess how they’re doing, and then to cultural or media messages.  Understanding this is important as a parent, as it means you play a pivitol role in their growth as a person during these tricky few years.

Parents can either be a buffer to messages from the outside world, or else they amplify the problem. Parents love their children and assume their kids know this; However, it’s often unwittingly “death by a thousand paper cuts” as kids internalize every comment, criticism and correction that their parents make.  

Showing unconditional love is critical, yet many parents misstep and send very conditional messages without even being aware. Alternatively, when parents praise – or give accolades for performance - they send the message that their kids are being judged and their child’s standing could change at any moment. 

Instead, parenting expert Alyson Schafer recommends offering encouragement, rather than praise.  Let them know you love them without having to accomplish or earn it.  Focus on improvement and effort over perfection.

And ultimately, re-inforce that mistakes are opportunities to learn. Mistakes will happen, over and over again in some cases, but try to put aside your frustration and offer a lesson for growth.

Parents can help raise confident teens by

  • Provide media training so they understand how false images and values are portrayed online and on televison
  • Review the values that really matter ( kindness – honestly – helping others, etc)
  • Model substance over beauty in how you live your own life.
  • Teach assertiveness
  • Help them find their voice at home
  • Find books and movies with female heroines with good values and discuss - this is equally important for boys to read and see as well
  • Encourage them to increase their friend group to include those with different values
  • Never pity them
  • Never try to “fix” them
  • Do give the names of therapist or post the number for kids help phone
  • Discuss healthy relationships pertaining to their peers and dating so they know what that looks like