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Build self-esteem in your tween

Tips for a difficult age

Build self-esteem in your tween

The jump from “child” to “tween” can be abrupt. One morning your son will be obsessed with Pokemon, the next he’s deeply unhappy at his height. Or, your daughter is one day singing along to her favorite music, the next she is suddenly so shy she can barely speak. It’s our job as parents to help our kids through these phases, to help them focus on attributes or details they may not be able to see. It’s also important to do so honestly. Rebecca Fraser-Thill at Very Well Family offers some excellent tips. 

Emphasis is big factor. Fraser-Thill writes: “You can build self-esteem by emphasizing the importance of your tween's talents.” If, for instance, your family mostly excels academically, but your child is good at sports, Fraser-Thill says “this can lead to a sense of low self-esteem because he or she is not good at ‘what matters.’” Devaluing academics – or whatever the skill – isn’t necessary. Just pay more attention, and “talk up” your child’s talent, especially if you don’t share it.

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Listening is also of utmost importance. Fraser-Thill notes this is a quality-over-quantity issue: “Listening does not have to occur in huge quantities to be effective,” she writes. “Even ten minutes of true attention is worth more than three hours of being ‘together’ but never really focusing on what your tween is saying.” She advises being nonjudgmental, avoiding criticism and even advice. Simply be present, “hear what your child is saying and restate his or her comments to show that you're listening.” This can go a long way to validate a tween’s feelings.

One of the biggest challenges for many parents is letting a child fail, but Fraser-Thill writes: “Resilience in the face of failure may help reduce the risk of anxiety and depression and children may need to learn how to deal with failure but not avoid it.” Discouraging failure keeps a child from trying new things. As Fraser-Thill puts it: “Tweens learn resilience and coping skills when they face problems. Even better, when they reach the goal they've been seeking, they gain a sense of genuine ownership and capability.”

Fraser-Thill reminds parents to be good role models for self-esteem. If you’ve got a self-deprecating sense of humor, this can be hard. Or if you habitually complain about yourself. It’s not helpful for kids to hear you say, “I’m so fat,” or “I’ll never get this done!” or “I’m such an idiot.” Even in jest, these kinds of statements can undercut your child’s sense of self. As ever, even if you think they’re not listening, think again.

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