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Boosting Self-Esteem in Young People: A Guide for Teachers, Parents, and Youth Professionals

As parents, guardians, and youth professionals, we play a pivotal role in shaping

the self-esteem of the young people in our care.

Understanding the Importance of Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is the lens through which young people view themselves and their place in the world. It influences their decisions, relationships, and the ability to face challenges. High self-esteem fosters a positive self-image, confidence, and a belief in one’s abilities, while low self-esteem can lead to self-doubt, anxiety, and depression.

Recognizing the causes and signs of low self-esteem is the first step in providing the right support.

Causes of Low Self-Esteem

  • Low self-esteem in children and young people can stem from various sources, including:

  • Negative messages from others, including parents, peers, or teachers.

  • Bullying or discrimination.

  • Unrealistic societal standards, often perpetuated by media.

  • Challenges in academic or personal achievements.

  • Difficult family dynamics or personal health issues.

Signs of Struggling Self-Esteem

Be on the lookout for signs that a child or young person is struggling with their self-esteem, such as:

  • Negative self-talk or self-criticism.

  • Avoidance of social situations or new challenges.

  • Expressions of feeling unworthy or incapable.

  • Difficulty accepting positive feedback.

  • Reluctance to express opinions or preferences.

Strategies to Support Self-Esteem

  • Celebrate Their Uniqueness

Every child and young person is unique, with their own talents, interests, and personality. Celebrate these differences and encourage young people to embrace what makes them special. Encourage them to find their voice and speak up. This will help them build their strengths, and avoid comparing themselves with others.

  • Provide Genuine Praise

Praise is a powerful tool when used correctly. Offer genuine and specific compliments rather than generic ones. For example, instead of saying "Good job," you might say, "I really appreciate how you helped your friend with their project. It shows your kindness and teamwork skills." This not only boosts their self-esteem but also helps them understand what behaviours are valued.

  • Encourage Positive Self-Talk

Teach young people to recognize and challenge their inner critic. Encourage them to practice positive self-talk and affirmations. For instance, they can replace thoughts like "I can't do this" with "I can try my best." Modelling positive self-talk in your own behaviour can also provide a powerful example for them to follow.

  • Foster a Growth Mindset

Help them understand that failure and challenges are not only normal but essential for growth. Encourage a growth mindset by praising effort over achievement and viewing setbacks as learning opportunities. This approach helps young people to persevere and continue trying, even when things are tough.

  • Provide Opportunities for Success

Create environments where young people can succeed and feel competent. This could be through sports, arts, volunteering, or any activity that allows them to showcase their skills and contributions. Success in these areas can significantly boost their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.

  • Teach Resilience

Life is full of ups and downs. Teaching young people resilience—the ability to bounce back from setbacks—is crucial for their self-esteem. Share stories of resilience, both personal and from well-known figures, to inspire them. Encourage them to set realistic goals and break them down into manageable steps.

  • Listen and Validate Their Feelings

Sometimes, all a young person needs is to feel heard and understood. Listen actively to their concerns and validate their feelings without immediately jumping to solutions. This shows that you respect their feelings and perspectives, which can boost their self-worth.

  • Educate on the Impact of Social Media

Discuss the realities of social media, emphasizing critical thinking about the content they consume and share. Encourage a healthy online presence that reflects their true selves.

  • Lead by Example

Young people learn a lot by observing the adults in their lives. Model confidence and healthy self-esteem in your own actions and words. Show them that it's okay to make mistakes, ask for help, and stand up for what you believe in.

  • Provide Unconditional Support

Let them know that your love and support are unconditional—not based on their achievements, looks, or any other external factor. This security is the foundation upon which they can build their self-esteem.

Building a Supportive Community

  • Encourage Social Connections

Strong, positive relationships are key to a young person's self-esteem. Encourage them to build friendships and connect with others who share similar interests. Involvement in clubs, teams, or groups can provide a sense of belonging and support.

  • Encourage Peer Support

Foster an environment where young people feel safe to support each other. Peer mentoring programs at schools or community centres can be particularly effective in building

self-esteem and reducing feelings of isolation.

  • Address Bullying and Discrimination

Create and enforce policies that tackle bullying and discrimination at schools. Learn how you can prevent and address bullying and create a safe and respectful environment that allows young people to thrive without fear of being themselves.

  • Connect with Local Resources

Collaborate with local organizations that specialize in youth mental health.

So are group workshops, counselling, and group activities that can provide additional support outside the home and school. Encourage the young person to choose the right support for their mental wellbeing.

Seek Professional Help When Needed

If you notice persistent issues with self-esteem that significantly impact their daily life, consider seeking support from a mental health professional who can provide tailored strategies and interventions.

Boosting the self-esteem of young people is a collective endeavour that requires the involvement of parents, teachers, and youth professionals.

Building self-esteem is a journey, not a destination. It requires patience, understanding, and consistent support. By implementing these strategies, you can help the young people in your life develop a strong sense of self-worth that will serve as a solid foundation for their mental health and overall well-being. Together, we can lay the groundwork for a generation that not only believes in its potential but also possesses the resilience to overcome life's challenges.

Further help:

You can join our Facebook community: Adults4YoungMinds to access our Free Monthly Workshops run by Denise Brown, the founder of 4YoungMinds, on different topics on how to support the mental wellbeing of young people. You'll also connect with other parents, teachers, carers, guardians or youth professionals in a safe and understanding space.

We also provide 1-1 mentoring for young people and workshops for young people as well as their parents and teachers. You can explore more under our services.

Further resources to help you: - a charity helping families support their children or other young people in their care: It may help to chat with other parents. You can also talk online via their live chat service, email them at or call them on their helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to a trained family support worker.

Young Minds - have a helpful advice article that can help with self-esteem

Childline - has some advice for children and young people on boosting confidence and self-esteem

Mind - have some useful advice for teenagers on confidence and self-esteem


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