Family

8 things you can do to boost your teenager’s confidence

The shortcuts to greater self-worth.

By BTYB Suncorp
Ask any adult if they would trade their mortgage-laden, nine-to-five lives with that of a teen and you'll be met with a resounding no. After an expletive or two.
It's not that adults are keen to hang onto their debts, it's that everyone can remember their teenage years; when angst was at an all-time high and confidence levels were lower than low.
ReachOut estimates that up to half of today's adolescents will struggle with low confidence levels during the early teenage years, but the good news is that, as a parent, you can make a huge difference to your teen's confidence. Here's how.

1. Ask for their advice

Teenagers aren't short of an opinion or two, so use that to your advantage when it comes to bolstering their self-esteem. Teenagers are desperate to be seen as grown up — until it comes to paying bills and rent, of course! — so be inclusive. Ask for their opinion on family matters. It can be as simple as asking what they think you should have for dinner to asking for their advice on renovating the kitchen, what they'd like to do over the holidays or what they think their sibling would like for their birthday. It doesn't matter the topic; the message you're sending is that their opinion is valued.

2. Encourage them to play team sport

Countless studies have highlighted the positive effect that team sports can have on teenagers. Aside from the obvious benefits that spring to mind — exercise, fun and camaraderie — there are deeper advantages that tie into your teen's self-confidence levels. According to the NSW Department of Education, team sports help develop personal values such as respect, as well as boosting self-worth through resilience, social interactions and a sense of belonging. But, don't just take our word for it; 87 percent of teenage girls surveyed in the Suncorp Australian Youth and Confidence Research Report said that playing sport made them feel more confident. There's still more teenage boys playing sport than girls however, so if you're the parent of a teenage girl, work extra hard to get them involved in team sports such as netball. And be sure to tag any team social pics or post-match selfies with your daughter with #TeamGirls. It's a Suncorp initiative, in partnership with Netball Australia and ReachOut, designed to create a network of confident girls by championing supportive behaviour and values. And if you're struggling to get teens actively involved in sport, give them a choice of sport or helping ‘round the house after school. They'll soon be keen — or grudgingly agree, at least!
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3. Be positive

Teens learn their behavioural patterns from their parents so watch your language around them. We don't mean swearing — besides, they've probably heard worse at school — we mean basic, everyday language. Especially when talking about yourself. Be positive. Don't put yourself down. Break bad habits where your natural instinct is to be fearful or doubt yourself. Because that's not the kind of internal self-dialogue you want your teen to have. You want them to have a positive view of themselves and to believe they can do anything.

4. Give them more responsibility

Giving your teen more responsibility not only shows that you trust them, it also enhances their self-worth. It's a way of saying “I believe in you” and gives them the freedom to set personal goals — and achieve them. It's also a great way of introducing them to the realities of the world, whilst still being there to help and guide them. Stepping back and not doing everything for your teen allows them to test out life skills they're developing, giving them experience and confidence. Whether it's in the form of a weekend job or doing chores around the house, giving them responsibility teaches them to be accountable and that they're a part of something bigger.
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5. Praise them

It sounds so simple, but think about it. How often do you nag your teen to pick up their wet towels from the floor or put the laundry in the basket? And how often do you take the time to say “good job, buddy” or even just “thanks” for helping out. To say teens are sensitive is a bit like saying Chris Hemsworth is alright-looking. The fact is, they're hyper-sensitive to both criticism and praise — just like we were at their age — but you know what helps? When they feel valued and appreciated. So next time they do something right, something helpful or something good, tell them so. You might only get a grunt in response, but deep down they're smiling. And remember, it's important to praise their effort, not just their achievements.

6. Eat meals together

Teenagers excel at all things emoji-based but they can sometimes struggle with face-to-face interactions, particularly with adults. Family meal times are a good way to encourage teens to flex their social skills away from their phones. Start a “no phones at the table” policy and ask your teen about their day (without sounding like you're interrogating them!) or talk about something you know they feel strongly about — such as their favourite sports team, a new movie or a crazy piece of news. Encourage engagement by maintaining eye contact — something we’re all too guilty of avoiding when glued to our phones — and ask their opinion. Pretty soon talking, not texting, will become the dinnertime norm.
The perfect example of what not to do at dinnertime!

7. Criticise constructively

Teenagers inevitably make mistakes — it's part of growing up — but try to make your disciplinarian comments constructive where possible. Sure, it will use all of your willpower not to say “I told you so” at times, but now isn't the time to lecture them on what they should have done or worse, what you would have done. Teens learn how to handle stress from you, so it's important to deal with setbacks constructively. Adopt a “what's done is done” attitude and help them come up with a solution-based action plan. When they're feeling less vulnerable, you can have discussions about disappointment and expecting more from them. And, whatever you do, avoid labelling them as stupid or reprimanding them in front of others. Both are an instant dent to your teen's ego.

8. Let go of your ideals

Just because you were a cheerleader/played trumpet/headed up the debating committee in high school, doesn't mean your teenager is going to want to do the same. The hardest lesson to learn as a parent is when to let go, but projecting your hopes, dreams and hobbies onto your teen could actually quash their confidence. Let them be free to explore their own interests and discover what they excel at — you'll see their confidence levels flourish when they find it. Just be warned, some teenage dreams are short-lived so be supportive, just don't necessarily invest in every hobby. Hire instruments and costumes, communicating that you'll buy whatever it is when they've committed to the hobby for six months. Fair's fair.
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