With peer pressure, influences from the media, competition at school and physical developments weighing on teens, they face constant challenges and threats to their self-esteem. You can help to combat those challenges and help your teen develop positive personal relationships by strengthening the existing bonds in her life.
Bonding with Parents
You are the first line of defense against your teen's feelings of insecurity. You have to remain engaged in your teen's life and you can stay involved by showing active, honest interest in his activities. Listen to his music, watch his TV shows and learn about his favorite sport. It also can mean expanding his role in your family; it is a sign of trust that can seriously prop up his self-esteem. So, let him plan a day of your next family vacation or make him your exercise buddy. These little adjustments can help preserve your relationship.
Bonding with Siblings
Siblings can have a more profound effect on a child's informal behavior than parents. You can use this powerful influence to help your siblings bond during the teenage years. Step out of the nurturing role and let your teen take over some chores for your younger children. Have your teen read bedtime stories to the younger kids or have him lead a cleanup brigade of the playroom. If he has older siblings, use the inevitable spats that arise when they interact as conflict resolution lessons. Help them cope with their anger, but let them work out a resolution themselves. For example, let them develop a fair system for picking what to watch on family movie night.
Bonding with Peers
For many parents, dealing with their teen's friends is like walking a tightrope: regulate too much and your teen might rebel; allow too much slack and he might get into trouble. Yet this tightrope can be navigated with communication. Talk with other parents before organizing a group movie night. Use sporting events, trips to the mall, or even paintball excursions as rewards for good schoolwork and responsible behavior. And in this modern world of technology, allow Internet access, but only with set rules and responsible monitoring. Another skill to help navigate this tightrope is organization. Get your teen involved with charitable programs or local nonprofit work. This can introduce him to a new social group, which can teach him to bond with peers outside of school or sports. It might also open his eyes to his surroundings and teach him valuable lessons about his environment.
Bonding with Himself
The teen years are fraught with insecurities, self-esteem and confidence issues and a multitude of other inner struggles. Help him learn to accept and love the person he is by recognizing his own strengths and what he has to offer others. Because your teen constantly wants to prove himself and gain acceptance in the eyes of others, he might lose sight of self-reliance. Encourage him to take pride in his ideas. If he thinks of ways to improve a video game, allow him to voice those ideas on a related blog or website. If he feels depressed about the parking lot being built on his favorite park, take him to a local planning board meeting and let him have his say. By placing him in circumstances with different age groups, teaching him how to respond in strong yet respectful ways, and recognizing his efforts, you will go a long way to shaping a confident, self-reliant person.
- Bonding with Your Teen through Boundaries; June Hunt, et al.
- For Parents Only: Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid; Shaunti Feldhahn, et al.
- TeensHealth: How Can I Improve My Self-Esteem?
- David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images