Confidence Building in Pre-teens and Teenagers

Confidence is the belief that you’ll be successful or that you have made the right choice in a particular situation.

Confidence is related to:

  • Self-esteem – feeling good about yourself and feeling that you’re a worthwhile person.
  • Resilience – being able to bounce back from difficult experiences and cope in hard or stressful situations.
  • Self-compassion – being kind to yourself when things don’t work out as you hoped or planned.

If your child feels okay about themselves and knows they can cope when things are hard or don’t go right, they are likely to have more confidence to try new things and tackle difficult situations.

Why building confidence is important for pre-teens and teenagers:

Confidence helps teenagers feel they can make safe, informed decisions and avoid people and situations that aren’t right for them. If your child is confident, they are also more likely to be assertive, positive, engaged, enthusiastic and persistent.

Pre-teens/teenagers with low confidence are less likely to join in activities, more likely to hold back in class, and might be more willing to give in to peer influence. When a preteen/teenage child lacks confidence, they might expect to fail at things they try, or they might not try as hard when things get tricky.

For example, a confident pre-teen or teenage child with friendship problems might be upset for a little while, but then they might realise that they can bounce back from the sadness they’re feeling and focus on the positive aspects of their life, like other friends and family. A less confident child might be more upset or feel that the problems are all their fault. This could affect their self-esteem and leave them feeling that they aren’t worth being friends with.

Some tips for building confidence in your pre-teen and teenage child:

  1. Be practical
    Look for the practical and positive things your child can do to build skills, achieve goals and experience success. Giving your child a clear strategy to improve their chances of success is a great way to do this. For example, ‘If you want to be picked for the football team, you need to make sure you are listening to the coach and practising between sessions’.
  2. Give your child opportunities to try new things
    When your child tries plenty of different things, they get to know what they are good at and what they enjoy. Your child will also learn that most people do well at some things and not so well at others and that is fine.
  3. Encourage your child to keep trying
    If your child fails at something, help them understand that everyone makes mistakes. It is okay if they can’t do something the first time they try because they can improve with practice. You could also encourage your child to be kind to themselves. If your child is unhappy with how they played in a sport like basketball, they could say something kind to themselves, like ‘That didn’t go well but I’m going to keep trying’.
  4. Model confidence in your own ability
    You can be a role model when it comes to confidence. This you could do by talking to your child about what you’re going to do to try to succeed at a task. For example, you might talk about how you’re feeling nervous about giving a presentation at work. You could tell your child that you’re practising the presentation at home so that you’ll be well prepared and confident on the day.
  5. Encourage your child to act confident
    Acting confident can help your child feel confident. You could coach your child to make eye contact with others, smile, dress in a way that makes them good, and think about their body posture. You can also encourage your child to do what they love, walk away from situations they know aren’t good, and try not to focus on what they can’t do.
  6. Practise social skills
    If your child feels anxious in social situations, they might need your guidance. For example, showing interest in other people’s activities and joining in conversations can help build confidence.
  7. Praise your child’s efforts
    If an exam, interview or game doesn’t work out the way your child hoped, try to praise your child for the effort they put into the activity, rather than the outcome. You could also suggest some ideas about what they could do differently next time.

Getting help for preteen/teenage confidence

  • If your child’s confidence changes suddenly, or if low confidence is stopping your child from trying new things, a good first step is to talk with your child. This will help you find out what’s happening to them.
  • If it isn’t something you can help with yourself, it might be a good idea to get help for your child from a teacher, school counsellor or psychologist.

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