According to Search Institute, “The most important piece of the self-esteem puzzle is personal power – the sense your child gets from knowing they can have an effect on their world.” As your child grows into adolescence, they become more independent, and have an increasing level of responsibility, choice, and control. It is important to give them opportunities to exercise their power of choice, thereby building their confidence and competence. Here are a few strategies.
- Help them to distinguish between what is in their control and what is outside of it. For example, we have the power to choose what we do and say, but we cannot control what others do or say. The distinction is important. Some kids (and adults, too) can get overwhelmed by forces outside of their control, and forget to exercise the power that they do have. Thoughtful, sensitive kids can develop anxiety about their parents’ jobs or relationships, world events, and other things outside their sphere of choice. It helps to remind them that they cannot control things like that, but they can control their own responses, and treat themselves with compassion.
- This is a crucial time for your young person to be setting goals and achieving them. Schoolwork provides lots of opportunities for this. Your Learning Coach at Phoenix is a good resource to help with setting goals and planning long-term assignments. Successful teamwork on a sports team or in a volunteer organization can also give a young person a sense of their personal power.
- Personal power is related to Developmental Asset #30: Responsibility. Help them to brainstorm and come up with solutions to problems, but don’t bail them out – let them make their own mistakes and enjoy the satisfaction of solving their own problems.
- As they grow, continue to talk to your adolescents about their changing roles and responsibilities. Their world is expanding and they are expanding to fill it. Let them know that you can see them taking on more, becoming more self-assured, and growing up. Ask them how you can continue to be supportive of them as they grow.
Search Institute has identified 40 building blocks of healthy development, known as Developmental Assets, that help adolescents to grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. Visit us here every Wednesday to read about different ways that you, your family, and your community can take action to help equip our young people develop resilience and achieve success in life.