BEAUTY IN THE FRIDGE

5 Ways to Help Teens Build Confidence

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From the day our kids are born, we’re constantly teaching them — from nitty-gritty stuff like potty-training and tying their shoes to less concrete things like how to be kind, honest and helpful. We teach them to be respectful and hard-working, to find things they love to do and to swing for the fences. And then there’s something even more amorphous that’s possibly the most important underpinning of all: self-confidence.

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It’s no easy task, especially as kids enter their tween and teen years and outside influences like social media become more of an issue. But parents have a tremendous influence on how a child feels about themselves. And with the right map in hand, you can steer your child away from attitudes and activities that undermine self-esteem and towards those that contribute to a strong sense of self, says Tori Cordiano, PhD, a clinical psychologist and the director of research at the Laurel School Center for Research on Girls in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

If you can, focus on self-esteem from a young age, since confidence isn’t something you’re necessarily born with. It needs be nurtured and developed over time. “There is no one way to go about helping your child become more self-confident,” says Cordiano, “but if you make it a foundational aspect to everything you do together, that will help it become a natural part of who they are.”

Here are five great ways to get started.

Show them the value of helping.

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From the youngest age, kids naturally want to do things themselves, and they especially relish being of value to someone else. “When people get a chance to feel like they are helping someone else, it is huge for developing self-confidence,” says Cordiano. “This is one of the most win-win, bang-for-your-buck things I tell parents.” She suggests that parents seek out volunteer opportunities with kids at any age. That way, you’re showing how service is not only a value that you hold dear, but you’re providing them with a chance to feel useful. “By looking outside, it helps build up children inside,” she says. As kids get older, they can seek their own avenues, causes and opportunities, which will continue to build their sense of self and agency.

Give them tools to engage with social media in a thoughtful, critical way.

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Even if you resist letting your child onto social media platforms as long as you can, the truth is that the teens are going to be online—and it will affect how they perceive themselves. In fact, according to The Dove Self-Esteem Project, 80% of girls are using retouching apps by the age of 13. It’s vital that we give them a broader, realistic sense of what they’re seeing and doing online and why it matters.

Remind them that what they are seeing on social media is not always true: it’s a carefully-curated highlight reel. (With all the mistakes and messes on the cutting room floor, so to speak.) Setting screen time limits and breaks from social media can also help kids take a breather to recalibrate. Still not sure how to broach the conversation? Try starting with a free online resource, like the Dove Self Esteem Confidence Kit, a self-esteem education resource that’s reached over 60 million young people worldwide and plans to reach a quarter a billion kids by 2030.

Teach them about boundaries.

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You’ve probably read a lot about how perseverance and grit are key attributes for living a healthy, successful life and developing a good sense of self-esteem. And that’s true, says Cordiano. “But what about knowing when you need a break? When you need, say, a nap or a day off? Time to step away and recharge? These are boundaries that kids with a strong sense of self-confidence will be able to identify and stick with.”

It’s something we saw in action during the recent Olympics, she points out, when certain athletes spoke out when they needed to take a pause — and felt the agency to do so. Encourage your child to listen when their own inner voice tells them it’s time to take a break or draw a boundary.

Empower them when faced with bullies of all kinds.

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While all kids will experience some form of teasing or other tricky social interactions, bullying is different—and you’ll want to both teach your child how to tell the difference and how to handle it if they are being bullied. According to the US government’s StopBullying website, bullying is defined as “unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.” You should also look critically at how some of the playful joking and teasing within your own family may contribute to low self-esteem. The Dove Confidence Kit can help you identify different types of bullying, and it provides useful steps to help your child take control of their specific situation.

Instill self-reliance.

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It can be tempting to do too much for your teen, even though you know they’re perfectly capable of packing their own school lunch or doing the dishes. After all, letting them do certain things on their own can seem like more trouble than it’s worth. (Not to mention that we often want to do these things for our kids!) But there’s also a direct line between a child who knows they can do tasks on their own and self-confidence—both in the moment and later, when they are out in the world.

Think back to when your child was a baby, and learning to hold a cup or take that first step sparked a sense of mastery and delight. As kids grow, things like learning to dress, read or ride a bike are chances for their self-esteem to grow. And now, in their teen years, take a step back and encourage them to take on new tasks (insisting where necessary), even if they make mistakes or mess up. Be sure your child gets a chance to learn, try and feel proud.

Learn more about how The Dove Self-Esteem Project is helping young people build positive body confidence. And find Dove products at a Sam’s Club near you. For every item product purchased, Dove donates $1 to Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

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