March 3, 2023

The Parent's Guide to Helping Your Teen Build Confidence and Self-Esteem

As parents, it's natural to want our children to feel confident and happy with themselves. Unfortunately, negative body image and self-esteem issues are prevalent in teenagers and can have significant physical and psychological consequences. 

The good news is that there are many practical strategies parents can use to help their teens build a positive body image and self-esteem.

In this blog post, we will provide an overview of body image and self-esteem, common causes of negative body image and self-esteem in teens, the impact of media, and psychological and physical consequences of negative body image and self-esteem. 

We'll also share some strategies for improving body image and self-esteem, as well as how parents can support their teens.

Understanding Body Image & Self-esteem

Body image and self-esteem are two closely related concepts that can have a significant impact on teenagers. Adolescence is a time of significant physical and psychological change, and teens are particularly vulnerable to negative body image and self-esteem issues. 

Understanding these concepts is essential for parents to help their teens build a positive self-image and healthy self-esteem.

Body Image

Body image refers to the way an individual perceives and thinks about their physical appearance. During adolescence, young people may experience changes to their body shape, size, and features as they go through puberty. 

This period of physical change can create feelings of self-consciousness and uncertainty about their appearance. Teens may compare themselves to their peers, and the unrealistic beauty standards perpetuated by the media can exacerbate these negative feelings.


Self-esteem, on the other hand, refers to an individual's overall sense of self-worth and confidence. A positive self-esteem is essential for a teenager's mental health, as it allows them to develop a sense of independence, make healthy decisions, and have the resilience to cope with challenges. 

Negative self-esteem can lead to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression.

Causes & Other Factors

Negative body image and self-esteem can be caused by a variety of factors, including peer pressure, media exposure, and personal experiences. Teenagers are at a higher risk of negative body image and self-esteem issues than any other age group. This vulnerability can lead to harmful behaviors such as avoiding social activities and unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

Negative body image and self-esteem can also be linked to eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder.

As a parent or caregiver, it's essential to be aware of these issues and understand their impact on your teen's well-being. Promoting a positive body image and healthy self-esteem is essential to support your teen through this challenging time.

The impact of media on teens' body image and self-esteem is significant. Young people are exposed to idealized beauty standards through social media, television, and magazines. This can lead to harmful comparisons and unrealistic expectations. 

Parents can help their teens by limiting media exposure and promoting critical thinking. Encourage your teen to question the images and messages they see in the media and to recognize that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

Parents can also support positive body image and self-esteem by encouraging open communication, creating a safe environment for their teen to express themselves, and avoiding negative comments and criticism of their teen's appearance. Modeling positive body image and self-esteem is also crucial, as young people often take cues from their parents.

Overall, understanding body image and self-esteem is essential for supporting your teenager through this challenging time. Promoting a positive body image and healthy self-esteem can help your teen develop a positive self-image that will serve them well into adulthood.

Strategies for Improving Body Image & Self-esteem

Teenagers are constantly facing societal pressure to fit into certain molds, especially when it comes to body image and self-esteem. The idealized images presented by the media can have a significant impact on teenagers' perceptions of themselves, leading to negative body image and self-esteem issues. 

The good news is that there are proven strategies that can help improve body image and self-esteem in teenagers. By implementing these strategies, parents can provide their teens with the tools they need to develop a positive self-image, boost their self-confidence, and ultimately improve their overall well-being.

Here are some strategies that are specifically focused on improving body image and self-esteem in teenagers:

Encourage Positive Self-talk

Teenagers are in the process of developing their identities and are particularly vulnerable to negative self-talk and self-criticism. Encouraging positive self-talk and self-compassion can be an effective way to counter negative thoughts and foster a more accepting and positive self-image. 

Parents can remind their teens to practice positive affirmations and compliment themselves on their accomplishments and strengths.

Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

Promoting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, can also improve body image and self-esteem. It’s important for parents to model healthy habits and encourage their teens to participate in physical activities they enjoy. 

However, it’s essential to emphasize the importance of a healthy lifestyle for overall health, rather than solely for appearance purposes.

Support Interest & Hobbies

Encouraging the development of interests and hobbies outside of physical appearance can help teens focus on their unique qualities and strengths. 

Parents can help their teens find activities that they are interested in, such as art, music, sports, or volunteering, to help them find a sense of purpose and self-confidence.

Emphasize Inner Qualities & Characteristics

Focusing on inner qualities and character can help teens shift their focus away from appearance-based judgments and evaluations. 

Parents can highlight their teens' character strengths and encourage them to be kind, empathetic, and compassionate towards others.

Foster a Supportive & Inclusive Environment

Parents can create a supportive and inclusive environment that promotes body diversity. This can involve avoiding negative comments and criticisms of other people's appearances and celebrating diverse body types and cultures.

It's important to note that improving body image and self-esteem in teens is not an overnight process. It can take time and patience to help teens shift their perceptions of themselves and their bodies. 

However, by implementing these strategies, parents can help their teens build a positive self-image and improve their overall well-being. If your teen is struggling with negative body image or self-esteem issues, it's important to seek professional help to provide them with the support they need.

How Parents Can Be Supportive

Parents play an essential role in their children's development, and they can also have a significant impact on their teens' body image and self-esteem. One of the most effective ways that parents can support their children is by setting a good example. 

When parents model positive body image and self-esteem, they provide a healthy and realistic standard for their children to follow.

Here are some ways parents can set a good example for their teens:

Focus on Health, Not Weight

Parents can encourage healthy habits in their children by modeling these behaviors themselves. Instead of focusing on weight, parents can talk to their teens about the importance of eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. When parents prioritize their health, they set a positive example for their children to follow.

Avoid Negative Comments About Appearance

Children take cues from their parents, and negative self-talk can be particularly harmful. When parents make negative comments about their own appearance, they are inadvertently sending the message that it's acceptable to criticize oneself based on physical appearance. Instead, parents can model positive self-talk and self-compassion by focusing on their strengths and inner qualities.

Encourage Open Communication

Open communication is essential to supporting positive body image and self-esteem in teens. Parents can model open communication by being available to listen, asking questions, and validating their children's feelings and experiences. When parents create a safe and supportive environment, they encourage their children to express themselves and seek help when needed.

Setting a good example is a powerful way for parents to support their children's positive body image and self-esteem. 

By modeling healthy habits, positive self-talk, acceptance, and kindness, parents can create a safe and supportive environment that promotes well-being and resilience in their children. By prioritizing their own well-being and taking care of themselves, parents set an example for their children to follow, creating a positive cycle of self-care and self-love.

Seeking Professional Help

When it comes to helping your teen improve their body image and self-esteem, it is important to acknowledge that some situations may require professional help. While you can play an important role in supporting your teen, professional help can provide specialized tools and resources to help them overcome deep-seated negative thoughts and behaviors.

A therapist can help teens develop healthy coping mechanisms, challenge negative thoughts, and identify underlying emotional issues that may be contributing to poor body image and self-esteem. Therapy can provide a safe space for your teen to explore their feelings and work through their issues, without the fear of judgment or ridicule.

The type of therapy your teen may need depends on the underlying cause of their negative body image and self-esteem. 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that focuses on identifying and challenging negative thoughts and behaviors. 
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is another form of therapy that can help teens build skills to manage emotions and improve interpersonal relationships. 
  • Family therapy can also be helpful, as it can address underlying family dynamics that may be impacting your teen's self-esteem.

If you decide that therapy is the right choice for your teen, it is essential to find a therapist who has experience working with teens and specializes in body image and self-esteem issues. Your pediatrician, school counselor, or insurance provider may be able to provide recommendations for qualified therapists in your area.

Seeking professional help can be a critical step in helping your teen overcome negative body image and self-esteem issues. With the right therapist and approach, your teen can develop the tools and skills they need to build a positive self-image and live a happy and healthy life.