Supporting your child to build up their confidence can be tough, because so much of what influences it happens outside of your realm of influence. You might have the world’s most loving and peaceful home, but it just takes one kid at school to give your child a hard time to offset the hard work you have done.
Over the years as a private tutor I have worked with a huge number of students who have lacked confidence and self-esteem, inhibiting their social experience and forcing them to withdraw from those around them. It can be really tough on everyone: the parent feels like they are not doing enough and the child feels like they have no one to talk to. I guess it is a rite of passage of the teen years – to feel isolated and alone. Here are five strategies that I have seen work with students – hopefully they will help you too.
1. Help them find their thing.
They might be terrible on the sports field and this is what is getting them down – so instead of trying to work out how they can improve, help them find their ‘thing’. They will naturally have strengths in specific areas and we are always happiest when we are succeeding at something. For me that was music. I was a terrible athlete, but a good musician. The more time I spent playing music, the less I cared that I was a bad football player and it naturally built up my confidence. It is about finding that sweet spot – even as adults we need to do it – find the thing we excel at and not let ourselves get disappointed at those we are not.
2. Support them in developing friendships.
If you can remember back to being a teen you might recall that it was characterised by those around you – unlike the pre-teen years where it was about family holidays and dinners, 12-18 becomes about the people you spend your time with. I know this can be dangerous, because you want your kids hanging out with the right people, but ultimately teens need their friends. Don’t be afraid to get involved in this and actually get to know your kid’s friends.
3. Understand the value of daily moments.
There are moments in your child’s day where they will want to know you love them – it is important that you maximise these opportunities as a way of boosting self-esteem. For most teens, these moments will be before they leave for school, when they/you get home in the afternoon and just before bed. Make it a habit that in these moments you give them a hug and remind them that they are special.
4. Get them involved in their community.
Sometimes the best way of growing is by giving back. Find a cause that they can contribute to and allow them to experience the joy of selfless giving. They can volunteer in an aged-care home or hospital, help feed the homeless – anything that gets them out of their comfort zone and allows them to think outside their own problems and insecurities.
5. Change their environment.
This is really the last option but it can be very effective. I have seen students who were really isolated and alone come alive as soon as they get to a new school. In fact, even for me, a change of schools in year 10 made a huge difference in forming my identity and academic performance. This is a big step – and not one that you can repeat over and over, but if you really feel like your child is not progressing where they are, consider a change in scenery.