Monday, April 5, 2010

Helping Your Teen with Low Self Esteem

Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? I frequently tell people you couldn't pay me money to go back to high school. The insecurities, the emotional turmoil, the challenges. It can be a difficult time for many.
Assisting teens through this time, leads to happier, better adjusted adults. As a therapist, many of the adults I see in my office can attribute low teen self esteem to the beginning of their difficulties. Teen self esteem is a serious issue that is often behind depression, anxiety and poor impulse control. When children and teens are having difficulties, it is important for the entire family to examine ways that they need to change. Children learn through observation. As a parent, what is your own self concept like? Are you positive or plagued with self doubt?
What creates a healthy self esteem, a positive self perspective? One of the most important aspects is the quality of our self talk. Negative thoughts create negative feelings. I have read that we think over 60,000 thoughts a day. How many of those thoughts are positive?
Not only do we need to think positively about ourselves but we also need to set aside our concerns about what others think of us. Focus on what you have control over and we don't have control over what other people think of us. Positive social support and an environment free of criticism are also very valuable to shaping healthy teen self esteem.
One particularly effective technique for developing self esteem is equine assisted therapy. Teens get to participate in interactive activities with horses to learn about themselves and their behaviour. It can be challenging to get a teen to open up and discuss their feelings. The horses provide an opportunity to be active and feel less threatened. Teens can learn by doing as opposed to being lectured.
In our teen workshops at Harmony Ranch, participates are able to connect with others who are going through similar struggles. They are able to feel connected and supported. Horses ask that we be honest with them as well as ourselves. I have observed that the teens who experience more success within the activities, are the ones who learn to put self doubt aside and believe in themselves.
Our group activities allow them to work together as a group and feel that sense of belonging that is so important to developing healthy teen self esteem. The horses also provide a powerful model of how we should all live our lives. They are honest, non-judging and live in the moment. Through hands on experience, teens are able to see how horses benefit from these traits and how they can work for them.
Most important in helping your teen with their self esteem is by being patient with them. Allow them to make mistakes and allow them to learn from them. How you as a parent deal with challenges provides a powerful example for your teen. Teach your teen to be positive and loving in their thoughts and actions. Remember, it is not what happens to us, but our reaction to it.

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