Online seminar recap: true self-esteem in teens

Creating the foundation to thrive starts with self accuracy

Mark J. Rothman, PsyD, CPsych, Registered Psychologist, led this Medcan online seminar on June 15.

“As parents, we want to instill as much true self-esteem as we possibly can in our children,” said Dr. Rothman, a registered psychologist at Medcan who works with children, adolescents and families to address emotional, educational and relationship needs.

“This allows for increased resilience and increased determination in goal achievement — characteristics we want in our children, teenagers and ourselves. But in order to achieve that, we must first have self accuracy.”

Source of self evaluation shifts from parents to peers

When a child approaches adolescence (around 12 and older), their personal sense of success or failure is heavily influenced and evaluated by their peers.

“This is a scary thought because your 14-year-old son is basing whether he is a valued person on other 14-year-old boys,” said Dr. Rothman. “Still, there is an important role for parents to play. Parents end up being the safety net when their adolescents fall. You have the ability to help them evaluate their success or failure from their peers or other outside influences. You have the ability to actually increase their resilience and their ability to follow through on achieving the goals they are setting for themselves.”

Self-esteem pyramid: the developmental process

pyramid blue

It helps to understand self esteem as a developmental process. From birth to approximately 10 or 11 years old, the child’s sense of identity and self worth is influenced by different stages. In the presentation video below at the 10:30 mark, Dr. Rothman speaks at length of these stages.

Open and clear communication supports an adolescent’s self accuracy

Here are a few easy ways parents can support their teenagers:

  • Turn off your cell phone when you are talking to your teen. Your complete attention is recognized by your child who then feels seen and valued. Keep the content honest. Ensure the communication with your teenager is real, otherwise, the intended messages won’t be heard.
  • Apply the ‘How can … ‘ approach instead of the ‘Do this…’ approach. An authoritarian approach has a short shelf life because it can ultimately diminish the credibility of the parents’ advice. The ‘How can… we figure this out?’ is a collaborative or team-based decision approach that allows for numerous options to be considered before a solution is chosen in line with the parents’ needs. This fosters the teenager’s independence and empowerment, while ensuring safety and responsible choices.
  • Be the parent who is viewed as a resource not an obstacle. When an adolescent views the parent as someone who is open to discussion, there will less sneaking around and more communication.

Adolescent executive function and reasonable expectations

Dr. Rothman explained that in the teenage brain, the executive function, the area which determines smart choices and reasonable expectations, is not fully developed.  Executive function, it turns out, isn’t fully developed until around 25 years old, which is why some adolescent choices seem so wise and mature, while others seem “absolutely ridiculous”, according to Dr. Rothman.  The underdeveloped executive function can result in an over estimation of their abilities and an under estimation of risk, which can sometimes lead to poor choices.

The full online seminar can be viewed below.

You may also be interested in: