Teen self-esteem issues are not limited to appearance by any means, although appearance can certainly be central. Your teen’s self-esteem can take a beating if he feels left out, sees himself as “weird,” can’t seem to make or keep friends, is not much of an athlete, has learning problems, or just feels significantly different from his peers. These issues may be even more difficult than physical appearance issues because they are more difficult to impact or change. If your teen’s low self-esteem seems to be primarily an appearance issue, consider gently intervening.
It is extremely difficult to bring up appearance with a child who already feels inadequate or short-changed in that area. Try starting with a physician visit. Make sure there is not an underlying physical issue contributing to your child’s unwanted appearance. Certain metabolic conditions, if undiagnosed, can impact your teen’s self esteem not only from actual physical symptoms, but could even contribute to depression or anxiety disorders.
Once you’ve ruled out physical conditions, consider the basics. Is your child getting the correct foods, correct amount of sleep, and some regular exercise? Again, teenage children are notoriously difficult to work with in some of these areas. This is the time to get creative.
For example, if you believe your child may be resistant to your interventions regarding eating habits, think about another adult or even an older teen with whom your child has a good relationship. Talk to that person about your concerns. An ideal outcome would be to have that person mention to your child in conversation how much better he’s feeling now that he’s paying more attention to eating properly. You get the idea.
Your child is actually far more likely to hear advice from an admired friend or neighbor than from you. One more area that’s critical to consider regarding your teenager’s self-esteem may be the most difficult one for parents to address. What contributions might you be making to this problem, no matter how innocently? Do you tease your child about weight, perhaps? How about comparing him to others? Are there less than flattering nick-names in use in your home? Are your children unkind or even downright cruel in the comments they make to one another? If so, you must stop this kind of insidious poison immediately. What sounds like teasing may be really damaging to your child.
Finally, how’s your own self-esteem? Children of all ages are masters at reading between the lines. If you are constantly fretting about your own appearance, your child will assume that behavior is normal. If you display a healthy attitude about your own appearance, your child will internalize that. Parents are usually completely mystified when they realize their children are dealing with self-esteem issues. For that reason, it’s extremely important that parents spend some time looking carefully at the environments in which their children spend the most time. In particular, home and school settings should be safe and supportive places for each child. If you suspect that they are not, make it your business to make whatever changes are necessary to provide your child the environment he needs to be a healthy, productive, confident person.