We live in a society where being superficial is praised and accepted. In addition, social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, doesn’t help the situation. As a matter of fact, it plays a significant role. Oftentimes, public figures use these platforms to promote self-acceptance. Meanwhile, many of them are perfecting their bodies or behaving inappropriately. Whether or not they are doing it to stay relevant or because they are not happy with whom they are is not the issue. The issue is they are sending a mixed message — it is fine to say one thing but do another. This type of message affects vulnerable teens.
Witnessing how my niece and nephew fight off the peer pressure to look and act a certain way at school is courageous. Unfortunately, not all teenagers have the ability to fight back. Children pick up what they see on television and on computers. Without the proper guidance, they believe they have to look and be a certain way just to make it in the world or to have someone like them. By this point, teens believe they are not good enough.
I remember as a teenager I wasn’t always happy with the way I looked. There were days I wished I looked like the flawless models on the cover of prestigious magazines. Until one day my mother sat me down and explained how important it was for me to embrace who I was. It wasn’t easy for me to understand, at first. I struggled with the idea, but I slowly grew out of wanting to look like someone else and grew to love the way I looked.
Teaching your children to accept themselves the way they are sounds simple, but it isn’t. In most cases, it’s a tug-a-war between the child and his feelings. However, here are a few ways to help your child build his self-esteem.
Explain beauty comes from within
Have a one-to-one discussion with your teenager. This is the time to explain that beauty and happiness comes from within the person. Social media encourages the notion that beauty is all about the outside. But the reality is another. Intelligence, care, love and respect are just a few qualities in people that make them beautiful.
Maintain a healthy body
Sometimes a child’s weight can increase or decrease due to diseases such as thyroid disease, causing ridicule at school or among friends. This will mentally and emotionally affect the teen by lowering his self-esteem. Ask the family doctor to suggest ways your teen can cope with the disease and with the mockery. In addition, ask him how your teen can keep up a healthy body.
What teenager does not love shopping? Take your teen on an affordable shopping spree and let him explore his own style. It’s fine to give suggestions, but give your teen the space to figure out which style he likes and feels comfortable with. Creating his own style will build his personality and self-esteem.
Encourage your teen to engage in different activities or projects. Congratulate him for his hard work. Teenagers need to know their parents are proud of what they have accomplished. They may have not succeeded in a particular area, but at least they made the attempt.
Teach your teen the importance of self-respect. If your teen does not respect his body or mind, no one will. Teenagers will meet all types of people — some will accept them just the way they are while others will find negative things to say. Nevertheless, he must learn to love and accept who he is.
Building your teens’ self-esteem does not happen overnight. It will take time. They may fall, but with your patience you will help them stand back up. Always remember to encourage and praise your children. Don’t leave it up to the social media or public figures.
Mayra Colón is a freelance writer, former independent author and avid reader. She holds a MBA from the University of Phoenix and completed the Freelance Writing and Selling Online course from Rutgers University of Arts and Sciences.