How to guide your teenager and build the confidence they need for life
There’s no doubt about it; the teenage years are some of the most turbulent and difficult years in the life of your child. It’s a time for pushing boundaries, finding personal limits and discovering who they “really are”. But how can you help them navigate this treacherous terrain? Here we discuss some common issues that teenagers face and offer tips for how you can help boost their confidence and ensure a safe journey.
Promoting a confident teen body image
Teenagers look outside the family for approval, and are often desperate to fit in with their peers. They turn to popular culture to guide them on what looks “right” and “wrong” for their bodies and their style. But there is often a big gap between what teenagers see in the media and the reality of what is healthy and realistic for them. Help set the course for a healthy body image by doing the following:
- Be positive about your own body image. Teenagers still take many cues from their parents, so don’t openly criticize your body and don’t make a big deal out of eating (or not eating) certain foods. If you are watching your weight, be sure to put the emphasis on being fit and healthy rather than worrying about your looks.
- Praise your teenager’s strengths and make them feel confident about themselves. Positive reinforcement of their strengths and talents will help to build a more lasting confidence in the type of person they are rather than what they look like.
- Keep the lines of communication open. If you’re lucky enough to have your teenager open up to you about their concerns, don’t dismiss their concerns with tired old clichés like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “beauty is only skin deep”. While these may be true, it won’t bring much comfort for the self-conscious teen. Instead, listen properly and be supportive, giving positive reinforcement and guiding them through to a resolution.
Encouraging positive teenage friendships
Teenage friendships can be more complicated than the most convoluted TV soap drama. But unlike TV, most teenage drama goes on where you can’t even see it – at school, after school or in social media. Nonetheless, helping your child to navigate ever-changing friendships will help to prepare them for the many different types of relationships they will later form as adults. Here’s what you can do to help:
- When your teenager discusses friendship issues with you, take it seriously and try not to trivialize things. While it may not seem like a big deal to you, teenagers haven’t yet built the confidence to brush off even a very minor slight, so instead listen and be supportive – it will set a good example of how they too can be a good friend in turn.
- Try not to get involved in your teenager’s friendship issues. As tempting as it may be to step in, it is important that your child learns how to resolve their friendship dilemmas without someone else interfering.
- Develop some boundaries to limit how much time your teenager can spend worrying and gossiping about their friendships. This is particularly important for social media, where gossip can spread like wildfire. Don’t let your child become obsessed with constantly checking their phone or computer for updates – ask them to switch it off and keep it off during certain periods to free up some mental space.
Supporting your teen through exams
As if teenage life isn’t stressful enough, the worry of exams can push many teenagers to the extreme with poor sleep, poor diet, poor mood and even poor hygiene. The reason for this is not just the desire to do well and get ahead, but also the desire to impress others, including teachers, friends, and most of all, parents. Help relieve some of the pressure by following these tips, and give your child the confidence they need to ensure the best possible outcome during the exam period:
- Reassure your teenager that exams are not the be-all and end-all of life. While it’s important that they study hard and do their best, it’s also important to recognize that there are many different pathways to success.
- Be mindful of their needs during the exam period. Now isn’t the time for home renovations or holidays. If you show your teen that you take their exam period seriously then chances are they will too. Familiarize yourself with their schedule and ask how their exam went that day – a debrief will help your teen put it behind them so they can focus on the next exam hurdle.
- Encourage exercise as a study break. Even just 15 minutes of throwing a ball around or going for a walk can relieve stress, boost concentration and stimulate the brain. Try to keep it light and non-competitive; your teen is already under enough pressure to perform!
For more tips on how to help your teen build confidence, check out the following resources:
- Body image – www.raisingchildren.net.au/articles/body_image.html
- Confidence building – www.parentingteens.about.com/od/confidenceandteens/a/buildteenconfidence.htm
- Friendships – www.raisingchildren.net.au/articles/friendships_teenagers.html
- Exam stress – www.parentline.com.au/parenting-information/tip-sheets/exam-stress.php