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The Fathering Project
Supporting Your Teen’s Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is a combination of our thoughts, self-image, what’s important to us and feedback from others.

During the teen years, there are many changes taking place which can impact self-image and how your teen feels about themselves. With all these changes, it is understandable that many young people will experience confusion and insecurity, so it is an important topic for fathers of teenagers to talk about.

There is clear evidence that fathers can have a distinct impact on their teenager’s self-esteem, and particularly with girls where fathers have been shown to have more impact on a daughter´s self-esteem than mothers do. So, as a girl moves into adolescence with her changing and maturing body, fathers need to be cautious about comments and attitudes about body image, even if it meant as a joke. There is also growing concern around self-esteem and young males; fathers can be a positive role model and support for healthy body image and self-esteem for their sons.

How does self-esteem work?

  • Physical appearance (What do I look like?) is the image area teens are most likely to nominate as the most important to them in judging their self -mage.
  • Teenage feedback nominates physical appearance (What do I look like?) as the image areas they are usually most unhappy with.
  • Teens tend to judge themselves more harshly than any other age group.
  • Teens often judge their appearance on images from the media, social media and other images that are not always realistic
  • If their ideal image, of what they want to be like is too high, they will always fall short.
  • The feedback from their peers is the most important to most young people.

Signs of low self-esteem may include:

  • Negative self-talk and comparisons to others
  • Focusing on the negatives and ignoring his/her achievements
  • Avoiding new things and not taking up opportunities
  • Fear of failure or embarrassment
  • Low levels of motivation and interest
  • Not accepting compliments or positive feedback
  • Shows mixed feelings of anxiety or stress.

Your teen might be doing well in all other areas of their life, and might confuse you if they’re showing signs of low self-esteem. Remember to check in and talk about what is going on in other areas of their life, like friendships and relationships. By talking them through their thoughts and feelings, you can help them to have a more realistic view of themselves as an individual. Your feedback is still important, and your support and guidance needed even if they appear to be pulling away.

Top Tips for supporting healthy self-esteem in your teen

  • Help your teenagers think about their abilities and what they are capable of in a realistic way, e.g. “You are driving so well for someone who is just learning.”
  • Encourage your teenagers to ‘have-a-go’ at new activities.
  • Encourage your teenagers to value a wide range of abilities and get a balanced view of all their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Support your teen to establish realistic and achievable personal goals for improvement.
  • Set aside time to listen to your teenagers and show them that you value what they have to say.
  • Help them to be more capable and independent, e.g. caring for their own belongings, managing their money or being involved in developing agreements around their boundaries.
  • Encourage your teenagers to think about images they see online, TV and movies and evaluate the level of realism of these images to us in our day to day lives.