“What if our teenagers aren’t giving us a hard time, but are having a hard time?”

Do you remember being a teen? As parents, we think we remember, but it’s likely we have glossed over some of it, blocked out other parts (yes, that part!) and what we forget sometimes is that our teen times in the Nineties or the Noughties (is that what we are calling that decade now?) was very different to our teen’s experiences now in the Twenty-twenties!

There will be some similarities, they have to deal with changes in their body, their brain and their hormones just like we did. And we had relationship and peer pressure challenges too. But it’s likely that ours were a little bit more private than the challenges our teens face today.

To give you an idea of where our teen’s lives are being broadcast, here are some statistics from 2020.

  • Although YouTube is still the most used platform, in 2021 research showed that children in the UK spent an average of 97 minutes per day on TikTok.
  • This was followed by Snapchat, using the app for an average of 82 minutes daily.
  • Children in the UK aged between four and 18 years also used Instagram for 34 minutes a day on average.

It seems that the challenges that teens face are magnified by the use of social media.  Where our self-esteem was developed through school, family, some television and media, teens of today are constantly being bombarded with “perfect” images and “perfect” life stories from far and wide.

There are two-sides to the social media challenge, the one where people choose to show the “best” side of their life and the one where people choose to share (often without permission) the worse side of other’s lives. This constant pressure (and fear) wears down our teens sense of self-worth, self-confidence and self-respect and along with it their self-esteem.

Remember, sometimes our teens are not giving us a hard time, but they are having a hard time.

To highlight the importance of supporting our teenagers in improving their self-esteem we are sharing statistics that shine a light on the current mental health challenges that our teenager are facing.

  • 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year.
  • 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24.
  • 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
  • 68% rise in rates of self-harm among girls aged 13 to 16 since 2011

So as parents (carers, aunties, grandparents – or whatever opportunity you have to be a positive influence in a teens life), what can we do to help support them in increased and improving their self-esteem?

As Youth Fairies we have many, many combined years of experience of working with teens and in this time we have researched and studied the subject of self-esteem, as well as asking teens directly how they would like to be supported.

What we have learnt is unlikely to be surprising, in fact most of it is fairly simple, but sometimes we forget.  We forget because parenting (and supporting) teenagers can be challenging and difficult – they are finding their way, their independence and their voice – they are learning to disagree and forge their own path. This can be painful, especially when we can clearly see where they are going wrong.

Here are some of the things we want to share with you, that we have learned in our studying (as both Therapists and as Youth Mental Health First Aiders) and in our therapy practice working with teenagers:

  • Teenagers want to be heard, they want to have a voice and want to be able to share their needs and their concerns. When they do this, they can build a more positive outlook and a stronger sense of self. While their opinions may not mirror yours, it’s amazing the things you can learn if you listen to your teens.
  • Lead by example. Be aware of your own self talk. When we demonstrate our self-confidence and value ourselves, we both teach our teens how to be confident and give them permission (and encouragement) to value themselves and recognise their worth.
  • Model how to say “No” – when our teenagers witness us saying no, setting healthy boundaries and putting our own needs first, we again teach them and give them permission to do the same.
  • Celebrate! Celebrate the small things, the small wins as well as the big accomplishments. Catch them doing something well and tell them. Be generous with praise (they might find it uncomfortable to begin with, but they will grow to love it, trust it and believe it).
  • Leave positive notes. They might protest, but their self-esteem will thank you.
  • Support their passions – be interested in what they are interested in, ask questions, be curious. Especially encourage them if they are trying something new, it might feel like a big risk to them (even if you think it’s just a new hairstyle!).
  • Encourage a relationship with another trusted adult. They might not always want to talk to us as parents and then its good to know they have an Aunt, God-parent or family friend that they can turn to.
  • Load your language with encouragement and belief.  There was a study by cognitive neuroscientist Sara Bengtsson, where 2 groups of students were asked to take a series of tests – one group was primed with positive suggestions for example ‘you’re clever, smart, intelligent’ and the other were given more negative ones such as ‘stupid.’ The group that was primed with the positive affirmations did better and the brain scanner showed that the part of the brain responsible for reflection and amending mistakes DID NOT activate in those who had been primed with the negative expectations. This suggests that positive language impacts on our child’s self esteem and ability to recognise mistakes and work to make improvements moving forwards – a Growth Mindset!

If your teenager is struggling with their self-esteem and you would like further information of how The Youth Fairy may be able to help, then you can visit www.theyouthfairy.com to find your local Youth Fairy and book a free initial consultation.

The following websites and organisations also will provide you with helpful advice and support if you have any concerns regarding the mental health wellbeing of your child.

Young Minds www.youngminds.org.uk

The Samaritans www.samaritans.org or call 116 123

CAMHS Website Resource Link www.camhs-resources.co.uk/websites