6 Tips for Raising Self-Esteem in Your Anxious Teen
Teen anxiety is on the rise and as parents, it can be difficult to know what to do.
At a time in their lives when peers mean everything to them, we can often feel irrelevant. Gone are the days when they chatted endlessly with us about all that was happening with them. Now they rarely come out of their bedroom.
As both a therapist and mom of a teenager, I’m often asked by concerned parents what they can do to help their teens with anxiety cope better.
There’s a lot you can do. You actually play a bigger role in their life than you think.
In a Parents Empowered survey, parents were asked where they placed themselves in a lineup of influences on their children. Parents placed themselves last – after friends, teachers, and media. But when kids answered the same question, they placed their parents first – before friends, teachers, and activities/clubs.
That’s great news but it also puts the responsibility squarely on our shoulders to guide and influence well.
So, what’s the best way to help your teen who struggles with anxiety? Help them raise their self-esteem.
Anxiety Affects Teens Differently
Anxiety affects teens differently. Some teens struggle with generalized anxiety in which they experience excessive, unrealistic worry and fear about everyday things. They may get stressed easily especially with school projects or upcoming tests even when they’re well prepared.
Others may struggle to make decisions and then beat themselves up afterwards if the outcome isn’t what they planned. Your teen might also come to you for advice but respond in irritation or anger if they don’t agree with you.
Another common form of anxiety is social anxiety which is an intense and persistent fear of embarrassment, humiliation or rejection from others. Teens with social anxiety worry greatly about how they are perceived. And they’ll go to great lengths to avoid any embarrassment even if that means not participating in activities or events.
In all these scenarios, teens may recognize their anxiety is exaggerated but still have great difficulty controlling or managing it. The anxiety takes a toll on their confidence and self-esteem.
How Parents Can Build Self-Esteem in Their Anxious Teen
Parents who intentionally build into their teen’s self-esteem give them a huge advantage in life. Not only do these teens become more resilient, but they also embrace challenges and recover from setbacks more quickly.
In a three-year research study of adolescents, teens with high self-esteem suffered fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression over time, indicating that self-esteem acts a resilience factor against such symptoms.
Here are some specific ways you can build positive self-esteem in your anxious teen:
Make sure your teen takes care of themselves physically.
Getting adequate sleep, good eating habits, and exercise are all so critical to your teen’s physical wellbeing. Endorphins (the feel-good hormones) are good for the brain so encourage your teen to get outside for some fresh air to run, walk the dog, bike, jump on the trampoline or just move. Not everyone is a gifted athlete and that’s OK. Your teen can still feel good about their body by keeping it healthy and in shape. A healthy and strong body contribute to better self-esteem.
Spend quality time with your anxious teen.
One-on-one time is so important. Take your son out for a milkshake or schedule a manicure date with your daughter. Spend time with your teen without giving advice. Just listen. Remind your teen of their strengths, talents, skills, and gifts. Communicate that they can tackle the challenges that come their way. Really believe in them and watch their self-esteem rise.
Incorporate “check-ins” into your family’s daily schedule.
Teens who can identify and verbalize what they’re feeling are more confident teens.
What’s something you’ve been thinking a lot about lately?” is a great question and potential conversation starter. Some teens give long answers and others one-word answers. Don’t push. Let them know you’re there when and if they want to talk. Having that safety net of family support encourages positive self-esteem.
Encourage your anxious teen to engage socially.
Unfortunately, anxiety can make teens want to isolate. Offer opportunities to be with family and friends and get creative spending time together or finding a common interest or hobby.
Perhaps your teen’s social skills are a bit rusty? Look for opportunities to reinforce them. Role play if necessary, so they know what to say or do in social situations. It’s perfectly OK to stretch your teen beyond their comfort zone a bit. We all need to learn how to talk to people so we can ask for what we need and want. This skill helps teens grow in their self-awareness and assertiveness and is especially important for teens who are socially anxious. Practice creates mastery which increases confidence and self-esteem.
Be mindful of your own anxiety.
It’s been said that children are great imitators but terrible interpreters. So, if you want to parent your anxious teen well but you’re so anxious you can barely function, then something needs to change. The most loving thing you can do for your teen is to model self-care. Everyone has heard the oxygen mask analogy and it’s so true. Schedule some time with your spouse, a good friend, or therapist to process your own anxious feelings and thoughts. Show your teen that working through anxiety is not only possible but can reap positive results.
Build spiritual disciplines into your daily life.
If you are a family of faith, get intentional about building spiritual disciplines into your daily life. When anxiety rears its ugly head, it can feel scary and disorienting to your teen. And as a parent, it can appear as if you’re facing a Goliath with only a slingshot in your hands. When you feel inadequate in knowing how to help your anxious teen, you can always reach for prayer. Pray as you feel comfortable – silently for your teen or out loud in their presence. You can also read the scriptures together finding hope and comfort in the promises of God. Knowing that they are not alone can be greatly reassuring to an anxious teen.
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Can Help with Teen Anxiety
Sometimes even after your best efforts, your child still needs more help. This is especially true if your teen’s anxiety has gotten worse or turned into a full-blown anxiety disorder. There is no shame in needing professional anxiety treatment.
I’ve helped many teens with anxiety feel and function better in their lives. In just a handful of sessions using Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), I help teens reduce their anxiety and build resilience so they can become a happier, more confident version of themselves. It’s not only a highly effective counseling process but it also enables teens to build change in their lives in the shortest possible time.
Begin Online Counseling for Teens with Anxiety in Illinois
Don’t allow your teen to feel overwhelmed by anxiety and low self-esteem one more day. Counseling can help your teen reduce their anxiety as well as rebuild their confidence and coping skills. As an experienced and caring therapist, I love providing online anxiety treatment. To start your teen’s counseling journey, follow these simple steps:
- Click on the Schedule an Appointment button
- Select a day and time in my online calendar
- Watch your teen gain confidence and become happier
Other Counseling Services at Briefly Counseling
Anxiety counseling for teens isn’t the only service I offer in my Chicago and Illinois online counseling practice. Other mental health services provided by Briefly Counseling includes child therapy and Christian counseling.
Helena Madsen, MA, LCPC is the founder of Briefly Counseling. I specialize in providing online short-term anxiety treatment for kids and teens ages 7 – 19 in Chicago and Illinois.
I provide all services via online therapy in Illinois. So whether you’re in Naperville, Chicago, Champaign, Rockford, Libertyville, or Crystal Lake, I can help you. Schedule your appointment or consultation today. I look forward to working with your child to quickly and effectively help them in activating their strengths, resources, and resilience, in order to live with confidence and hope.
Visit my website at www.BrieflyCounseling.com for more information or call 224-236-2296 to connect with me personally.