Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA
Your teen’s self-image is his mental picture of who he is. His self-image is developed based on how he was taught to think about himself, based on his experiences, and on others’ opinion of him.
His self-image is one of the most important things in his life. It will determine his attitude and behaviour and will affect all of the variables below:
1. The friends he makes and has
2. His performance at school
3. His life choices
4. What he will achieve
5. His level of happiness
6. His level of life satisfaction
A healthy self-image gives your teen the confidence to stand up for himself. The confidence gives him the courage to say no to peer pressure. Teens with a positive self-image believe they are worthy individuals with great qualities. This positive perspective of themselves leads them to believe they deserve to make positive choices so they don’t hurt themselves and their future.
Teens who have a negative self-image usually don’t think they deserve much and they don’t expect much of themselves. They don’t see themselves to be worth all the work. Teens with a poor self-image are also more likely to participate in risky behaviour if they think it will gain them the approval of their peers.
Because a good self-image affects so many important areas of a teen’s life, it’s important for parents to help their teen build a positive view of themselves. Just like anything, this is a work in progress and the more your teen practices positive thinking about himself, the better he will feel.
What you as a parent can do to help your teen improve his self-image:
1. Watch your words: Sometimes teens can take well meant comments in the wrong way. The English language is ambiguous and can be interpreted in a number of ways, so speak clearly. Also, remember that your teen’s mood can affect what he thinks he hears. Be attentive to your teen’s mood so you minimize miscommunication.
2. Build a close connection to your teen: Parents who take the time to develop a strong relationship with their teen will raise a child with a positive self-image. When you spend time with your teen and participate in activities he enjoys you demonstrate your love for him. The more secure your teen feels in his relationship with you, his parent, the better self-image he will have.
3. Show your teen you value him: Spending time with your teen and taking actions to show him you value him will boost how he feels about himself. While forming his identity, your teen often looks to you to show him his value and worth. Kind, respectful words are important. Also, be sure to keep your commitments with your teen, attend his games and recitals, and stop what you are doing when he is speaking to you and just listen.
Guide your teen to learn the important things about himself. Work with him to discover the following:
1. Successes: Talk about your teen’s successes. As a society, we often focus on the bad stuff. Speaking about failures will not make them go away and they certainly won’t help your teen to form a good self-image. Talk about successes and speak about lessons learned when goals weren’t reached.
2. Strengths: After listing your teen’s successes, ask him to point out what strengths were required to reach each success. You and your teen will pick up on patterns and easily learn what his strong points are. Encourage him to get involved in activities where he can use his strengths as much as possible. It will positively influence his self-image.
3. Values: Values are often spoken about by coaches but are also overlooked at home. They are important and they do determine whether your teen feels proud of himself or not. Successes only evoke a feeling of pride if they are congruent to what is important to your teen. Even an award such as the Nobel Prize will not be enjoyed if the ‘success’ goes against your teen’s value system.
4. Personal interests: Your teen has interests and the more things he tries the wider those interests will be. Many young teens believe that video games are their major interest. While there is nothing wrong with video games, their range of interests will increase if they are able to experience more in life. Offer your teen the opportunity to grow his interests so he can learn about the wonderful person he is.
Best Wishes to You and Your Family
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto