Family Life, Feature Story

How to Support Teens Struggling with Insecurity and Low Self-Confidence

By Phillip Andrew Barbb

Whether we look back on our teenage years with an “I miss those days” or a “thank goodness it’s over” mentality, we all remember the difficulties of adolescence.

Teenagers are up against academic expectations, adventures in dating, athletic performances, navigating various social groups, constant social media distraction, concerns regarding body image, and supporting friends that are all going through similar situations.  

As adults, we have the luxury of knowing we survived high school and we have the confidence that our kids will make it through as well. However, we often forget that our kids do not share our level of certainty. For children that are in the middle of the battle with insecurity and low self-confidence, the advice of ‘wait until you get older and then you will understand” can feel like a prison sentence. They want relief now.

Developing self-confidence and overcoming insecurity are extremely important for success in almost all areas of life. While adulthood brings the challenge of juggling a functional work/life balance, parents must remember that the education system can only do so much for our children. It is a parent’s responsibility to ensure that their child grows up to be a confident, resilient, and independent adult.

6 Tips for How Parents Can Support Teens Struggling with Insecurity and Low Self-Confidence

Here are six tips to help you better connect with your teenage son or daughter, and potentially alleviate some of their current challenges and struggles.

1. MODEL CONFIDENT BEHAVIOR

Parents are often their child’s first heroes and most influential role models in their lives. They observe and learn from you, whether you like it or not. Your teen will learn much about self-confidence based on what you do in your life, how you handle hardship, the way that you interact with others inside and outside of the house, and your ability to effectively or ineffectively navigate the stressful events in your life.

And if you are pleasant, resilient, compassionate, and confident, you are displaying to your teen how they can behave similarly. If you speak harshly, complain, gossip, and make negative comments, your child will more than likely accept the behavior as normal and they will mimic.

Beware of negative talk in front of your child. If you beat yourself up about your finances, relationships, appearance, etc, your child will start to be critical in the same way with aspects of their lives. Making encouraging and positive comments about yourself, your appearance, your career, and your life, in general, will help your teen develop healthy self-talk about their own.

By speaking positively of yourself and of others, one showcases how to celebrate oneself and other people. Encourage often. Complement frequently. Beware of unproductive criticism.

2. KICKSTART AUTHENTIC COMMUNICATION

Whenever I give the ‘focus on your positivity’ advice, there is always someone that pushes back with the “Life isn’t always positive. You can’t just be positive and expect problems to go away.” I agree. After all, I grew up in a household where the go-to statement from my father was “Life isn’t fair.” Thanks, Dad.

When I say beware of negative talk, I mean being hypercritical of ourselves and/or others. What we should be able to do is speak openly and authentically about our struggles and insecurities with our children.

Social media is a perfect example of people showcasing a ‘positive front’ while feeling trapped behind the false façade. As parents, we can talk with our children about the difficult times we overcame not only as kids but also in adulthood. By being authentic with our kids, we show them that problems and struggles come to everyone, and that means there isn’t anything ‘wrong’ with them.

However, parents should not confuse real, authentic communication with simply saying, “you know you can tell me anything.” This is not effective, as it is essentially asking a teen to share first without being shared with. When parents open the door to authenticity and vulnerability, children learn how it is done, experience the strength first hand, and gain confidence in the process of sharing. Parents must lead the way.

3. CREATE FREQUENT MOMENTS FOR OPEN COMMUNICATION

If your teen is feeling low or troubled, most parents would like to be the first person their child comes to. However, most children (and adults) will lean heavily on the people they communicate with most frequently when struggle and hardship arise.

Parents cannot expect their child to magically open up and seek guidance with life’s most important conversations when the normal and mundane conversations aren’t consistently happening in the household.

This can be something as simple as having a weekly 90-minute check-in with your child. Talk politics. Talk education. Talk dating. The frequency of the conversations allows your child to practice communication on a higher level than they are probably getting with their adolescent friends. The consistency also helps build trust and confidence allowing your child to feel more comfortable coming to you for advice and guidance.

Something to keep in mind is ‘silencing your advice monster.’ While it feels natural for an adult to give advice and suggestions to children, it is important that we are empowering children to develop solutions to their own problems.

A powerful way of doing this is to ask more questions than you provide advice for. Ask what they think they should do. When they say, ‘I don’t know’, follow up with “What if you did know?” Give your children permission to be wrong and make mistakes in a safe environment, and they will learn they can trust you, judgment-free, with anything.

4. PRACTICE GRATITUDE TOGETHER

This is one of the best things you can do together with your child that will help him or her shift their mindset from one focused on their insecurities into one aimed at appreciating life.

Each day when you wake up in the morning, sit with a pen and paper and create a brief list of five things you are grateful for. You could also have a dry erase board dedicated to this exercise.

Give your children permission to be silly or serious– big or small. Do not judge what they put on the list. One day it might be that they don’t have to take a test or that they have new haircare products. That is okay. The key is less about each item on the list and more about the practice of expressing a grateful spirit.

One trick is to think about things often considered annoying or frustrating, and immediately find a way to be grateful. For instance, if your child’s car had a flat tire, they can be grateful they have a car. If they got injured during sports practice and will miss a game, they can be grateful they are part of a team that they can cheer and encourage.

There is always gratitude to be expressed, and developing this proactively with your teen will be a huge benefit to everyone in the household.

5. MAKE A LIST OF CONFIDENCE BUILDING ACTIVITIES & SET GOALS

Besides providing moral support and encouragement to your teen, you can also motivate them through confidence-building activities. Such activities will inspire them to work hard in their lives and create a positive impact.

To do this, ask your teen to make a list of things they personally enjoy doing. The list should be of their own activities; parents cannot add chores to their child’s list. The second a teen feels they are being manipulated, the plan backfires.

Once again, as with the gratitude list, do not judge the list. Whether it is drawing a picture, reading a book, taking a walk, texting positive messages to friends, sleeping in… parents should embrace their child’s insight.

Once they have their list, encourage your child to set some goals around the activities. They don’t have to be big goals. It can be simple things like baking a cake for a friend or making 25 basketball shots daily, etc. Just aim for small goals to boost your teen’s confidence.

6. DEVELOP A PLAN OF SERVICE AND VOLUNTEERISM

Getting teens involved in community service or volunteerism is a great way to boost their confidence, take focus off insecurities, connect with new people, and be part of something bigger than themselves. Your child will get the ability to develop a new skill and take on a new challenge, which more than likely will be easy to participate in with little start-up resistance. The social element and connection to others can provide a sense of belonging, pride in the service of others, and providing a common mission or purpose.

Also, by participating with your child, you are leading by example. Some of the best memories I have with my own mother is shopping for toys to donate to less fortunate kids in my neighborhood or serving at a homeless shelter with my parents. It taught me that my family and I were part of a community and had the ability to care for our fellow men and women.

Volunteering is also a fun and interesting way to explore new environments and job tasks that your teen may not have considered before. The passion and motivation they will get from volunteering can carry over into their personal and future professional lives.

Remember, you cannot force your child to embrace a growth mindset or practice positivity in every aspect of life. All you can do is model the behaviors you want them to develop, create opportunities for them to grow, and expose them to a home environment that nourishes and encourages their development. Brainstorm solutions to problems alongside your teen and value their suggestions.

We must be a good listener first before we can earn the trust to speak into someone’s life…and that is as true in the office or job site as it is in our own households. Be an empathic listener, be present, and enjoy the joys of watching your child develop into a strong, confident, and self-aware young adult.


About Phillip Andrew Barbb

Photo of Phillip Andrew Barbb, courtesy of Mr. Barbb.

Phillip Andrew Barbb is a 2x Emmy®-nominated TV Producer, Author, and Motivational Speaker based in Los Angeles, California. Through high-energy entertainment and unforgettable storytelling, he educates and encourages High School and College Students from all across the United States. He travels the country to tell his story and speak with young people on a variety of topics including Leadership + Team Building, Peer Pressure + Substance Abuse, and Social Media Influence. ​

His first book, All the Reasons I Hate My 28-Year-Old Boss, is an entertaining, comedic, and motivational business/self-help book that tackles some of the common frustrations, annoyances, and mental hang-ups of being a member of today’s youth-driven workforce.

Mr. Barbb received two Daytime Emmy®-nominations for “Outstanding Educational or Informational Series” as a producer of the science and psychology program Mindfield in 2018 and 2019.​ He is a member of the Television Academy and Producer’s Guild of America as well as a graduate of Michigan State University.

For more information on Phillip Andrew Barbb follow him on social media and check out his website below!

Thank you, Phillip!

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All photographs, with the exception of Phillip Andrew Barbb’s photograph, are courtesy of Jennifer Hamra for Good Life Detroit. Photo locations: Detroit and Metro Detroit, Michigan.

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