Developmental Asset #38: Self-Esteem

Your child’s teens and early twenties will most likely be the most difficult and painful decade of his or her life. The physiological changes of adolescence would be difficult enough on their own, but your teen also has to contend with changing roles and responsibilities, social pressure, academic pressure, and looming adulthood. Self-esteem is a moving target, and, as parents, it is important to check in and stay aware of whether your teen is developing a healthy identity. Here are a few things to keep in mind.


  1. Self-esteem is related to Developmental Asset #37: Personal Power. To develop lasting, authentic self-esteem, it is crucial that every young person develop a sense of his or her power and efficacy in the world. Help them set realistic goals and encourage them to follow through. Talk to them about their changing roles and responsibilities. Let them make mistakes and take responsibility.


  1. Talk frankly and honestly about the changes taking place in your child’s body (i.e. puberty and growth spurts). The passage from child to adult is momentous, and worth celebrating. It’s a good idea to mark important changes with rites of passage in a way that makes sense for your family. I know one mother of three daughters who invited female family members and friends over to celebrate each girl’s first period with a special meal and a sharing of wisdom. For a son, consider commemorating the time when his voice begins to change. A changing voice can be humiliating for a young man, so it’s important to frame it in a positive light. A man’s voice is the vehicle for his words, which are his power to affect change in the world. Help your son understand that cracking and loss of vocal control are just a temporary inconvenience on the way to developing the powerful voice of an adult.


  1. Puberty brings with it new hygiene considerations, so make sure your child is taking proper care. Most teens develop acne, so teach them proper skin care earlier rather than later. Make sure they know when it’s time to wash more thoroughly under their arms and begin using deodorant. They might not notice their own body odour at first, but you can be sure that their peer group will.


  1. Tell your kids what makes them special human beings, that you love them, and that you will love them forever, even if they make mistakes. Some parents think their love should go without saying, but don’t assume they know. Tell them you love them, and tell them often.


RECOMMENDED READING: Helping Teens Handle Tough Experiences: Strategies to Foster Resilience by Jill R. Nelson and Sarah Kjos.


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.