17 Activities To Build Confidence And Self-Esteem In Teens

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Adolescence is characterized by physical and psychological development in growing children. And in this stage, self-doubt and low self-esteem in teens may occur due to various social and family factors.

Teenagers may face peer pressure, cut-throat competition, body-image issues, high parental expectations, and other pressures that may have long-term psychological impacts. As a result, the teen may be broody or weepy initially and become progressively withdrawn.

As a parent, you would wish to help your child face these challenges and move forward in their life. Read on as we discuss the causes of low self-esteem and its signs and suggest activities to improve self-esteem in teens.

What Is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is the evaluation of our values and capabilities. Low self-esteem leads us to doubt and underrate our capabilities and beliefs and puts us in a vicious circle of negative thoughts leading to an inferiority complex (1).

What Causes Low Self-Esteem In Teens?

Your teen can develop low self-esteem due to a number of events happening in their life. Some of them are (2):

  • Disturbances in family life
  • Authoritarian parenting style
  • Poor school performance
  • Appearance issues like weight, height, and complexion
  • Bullying in school
  • Poor social circle
  • Inability to ‘fit’ in with others
  • Emotional or social discrimination
  • Medical problems from accidents, chronic illness, etc.
  • Lack of parental support in making decisions

In each case, your teen might blame themselves for the situation and think it’s their fault.

How do you know if your teen has low self-esteem?

If you spot a few or more of the following signs in your teen, they are, probably, having low self-esteem.

  • Showing emotional indifference
  • A tendency to avoid new things or experiences
  • Difficulty in interacting with peers and friends
  • Low levels of motivation and enthusiasm
  • Persistent fear of embarrassment or failure
  • High levels of frustration
  • Negative self-talk
  • Problem making new friends
  • Sheeling themselves in cocoon

If your teen has low self-esteem, they might tend to avoid situations with risks of failure. In extreme cases, low self-esteem can lead to long-term problems.

Long-term effects of low self-esteem in your teen

Low self-esteem need not always result in something harmful or bad for the teen, especially if you identify and address it in time. In some cases, it might lead to long-term effects, including:

  • Anxiety issues
  • Panic attacks
  • Relationship problems
  • Body image issues
  • Reliance on alcohol or drugs to feel better
  • Depression
  • Bad friendships

All these can be avoided with some effort from the parent and the child.

Activities to Improve self-esteem in your teen

Apart from your support and encouragement, you can motivate your teen with some interesting activities (3) to boost their self-esteem and make them confident. Here are some such activities you may try:

1. Certificate of wins

Image: Shutterstock

With this activity, make your teen realize all the good things they have achieved and visualize their coming achievements.

What to do:

  • Divide the chart into four sections: The first phase of life (5-9 years), the second phase (10-14 years), recent successes and success wanted in the next five years.
  • Encourage your teen to fill up the sections with color markers and put the chart up in their room.
  • The chart would be a giant certificate of all their successes.

What they learn:

This worksheet helps them see that there are many things that they have achieved in their life and they have the capability to achieve more in the future. This exercise helps boost their confidence.

Free Worksheets and Printables for Kids

2. Coat of arms/ family crest

If your teen is creative or loves painting, this activity provides a creative outlet for them and helps build their confidence.

What to do:

  • Make your teen summarize the coat of arms with the tagline, ‘What makes me great’.
  • Individual sections of the coat of arms should reflect what makes your teen a good sibling, friend, child, and person.

What they learn:

Having a personal coat of arms will make your teen feel great about themselves. Listing out reasons why they are great will make them realize they are good.

3. Positive affirmation day

Image: iStock

Observe a positive affirmation day at your home once a week for your teenager to feel confident and affable. This can work wonders in boosting their self-esteem.

What to do:

  • On this day, instruct your teen to say and think positive about themselves.
  • You and your family members should reaffirm those positive qualities your teen comes up with. For example, if your teen thinks they are great at certain household chores, affirm that point and tell them you are proud of them.
  • However, be realistic and do not credit the teen with something that they don’t actually possess.
  • You can also go with affirmative journal: you and your child can write and dictate it .

What they learn:

Your teen finds that they have several things that they are good at and other people agree with their qualities.

4. Positive goals diary

This activity makes your teen identify their goals and ways to achieve them. Your teen can do the activity by themselves or collaborate with you.

What to do:

  • The activity is divided into two sections — ‘Setting goals’ and ‘Obstructions and strategies’.
  • Under the first section, ask your teen to write the goals they want to achieve in the next few days, next one month, one year and the coming five years.
  • In the next section, tell them to write down how they plan to achieve the goals and what problems they might face.

What they learn:

Setting goals and building plans and strategies to achieve them will give your teen a sense of purpose. This activity will make them a much more positive person and less afraid of the risks involved.

5. The flip book of mistakes

Image: iStock

This activity will help your teen learn lessons from their past mistakes and grow above them. It will help them to ‘flip’ their failures into success.

What to do:

  • Instruct your teen to write down their failures or the mistakes from the past that have affected them the most.
  • Tell them to note down what they think are the possible reasons for the failures.
  • In the next section, encourage them to come up with solutions to avoid similar problems in the future.

What they learn:

This activity helps your teen realize that failure is a part of life and failures can be utilized for greater successes. This helps them curb the negativity from any failure in their life.

6. Sentence completion worksheet

This exercise will help your teen become comfortable sharing their thoughts with others, making it easier for them to work on their self-worth. The activity is intended to help them explore their feelings and emotions.

What to do:

  • Come up with open-ended questions like, ‘I feel my future is,’ ‘The thing I am most afraid of,’ ‘I wish I could,’ ‘I love when,’ ‘I struggle when,’ ‘Today is going to be’.
  • Ask your teen to answer these at the end of each day.
  • Compare the trend of their answers after two weeks.

What they learn:

When this activity is done in addition to other positive behaviors, the responses gradually turn more positive. The activity gives an insight into how to be happy in life.

7. Gratitude journal

Gratitude journal

Image: Shutterstock

Maintaining a gratitude journal can be immensely satisfying for your teen and help them feel more positive about life and themselves.

What to do:

  • Every day, instruct your teen to record/ write at least two things they were grateful of in their day today
  • Tell them to increase the number gradually.
  • At the end of two weeks or a month, feel the change

What they learn:

Studies have shown that regular expression of gratitude leads to greater optimism, improved relationships and better quality of living. It also improves our sense of self-worth (4).

8. Negative self-talk exercise

Negative self-talk is an important reason behind low self-esteem. The following activity, if practized regularly, will help your teen reduce the cycle of negative self-talk and make them a more positive person.

What to do:

  • This activity is divided into four sections. In the first section, tell your teen to write down the thought that triggers a negative thought.
  • In the second section, let them explain the negative thought in detail; feelings associated with the negative thought, in the third section; and evidence that do not support their thought, in the fourth section.
  • They then need to come up with an alternative positive thought to replace the original negative one and examine how the positive thought makes them feel.

What they learn:

Your teen learns that more often, the negative thought is an exaggeration and that negative thoughts do not define them.

9. Core belief challenge

Image: Shutterstock

Your teen might be carrying false, semi-conscious beliefs that might be undermining their sense of pride or worth. It is important to spring clean their beliefs like you spring clean your house in order to make your teen a more positive person. This activity will help you do that.

What to do:

  • Make your teen identify three negative core beliefs and provide three reasons why each belief is not true.
  • Write them down.

What they learn:

This activity will help your teen to challenge their wrong beliefs and make them realize that every negative belief they hold is not true. It will teach them to move beyond presumptions and excel.

10. Assertive communication records

Underdeveloped communication skills may lead to low self-esteem and vice versa. This activity will be beneficial to them.

What to do:

  • Tell your teen to record three instances where they had asserted themselves in a communication process and how they felt being assertive.
  • If there are no such instances, then it can be their goal to be assertive in the future.

What they learn:

Your teen learns that it is okay to say no and they should stand up for themselves more often.

11. Self-appreciation chart

Image: Shutterstock

In order to develop healthy self-esteem, it is important to appreciate ourselves. This activity will help your teen become more confident.

What to do:

  • Let your teen write one good thing about themselves, on a chart every day.
  • It can start with something small and progress to more meaningful qualities.

What they learn:

Your teen learns to appreciate and love themselves.

12. Positive word of the day

This exercise helps the teen have a positive outlook. Over time, your teen would learn to have a positive outlook irrespective of the circumstances.

What to do:

  • Ask your teen to come up with a positive word that goes with one good act they did that day.
  • For example, if they helped do the dishes, they can come up with the word ‘helpful’.

What they learn:

Doing this exercise reassures your teen that there are a lot of good qualities in them, and they are capable of doing things that are admirable.

13. Body appreciation mirror time

Image: iStock

If your teen is a victim of body image issues, then this activity might be just right for them. It will teach them to love their body, no matter how it is.

What to do:

  • Tell your teen to stand in front of the mirror and come up with three things that they find beautiful in them.
  • Make them do this exercise regularly for better results.

What they learn:

Your teen learns to appreciate themselves and be comfortable in their own skin. Over time, they will learn to let go of their body-image issues.

14. Motivational quote challenge

It can be a great bonding activity for everybody in the family and also a self-esteem exercise for your teen.

What to do:

  • Tell your teen to come up with three motivational quotes every day to inspire them to take up bigger challenges.
  • You can have a family discussion on them to go deep into the meaning of the quotes.
  • The quotes can be quirky, humorous and interesting.

What they learn:

This activity helps develop a positive outlook and encourage the teen to do something better every day.

15. Body language test

Image: iStock

This exercise is crucial for your teen to curb their self-criticism and negative energy that can eat away their self-worth.

What to do:

  • Tell your teen to observe their body language in a mirror when they are having a negative thought.
  • Then ask them to replace it with a positive thought and observe their body language again.
  • Let them write down the differences they can see between both the cases.

What they learn:

This exercise will help them in controlling the negative thoughts they have by observing their body language. They also understand the importance of positive body language and the impression it gives to others.

16. Letter of encouragement

With this activity, you can bond with your teen and also boost their self-worth. You may engage your entire family in it.

What to do:

  • Prepare a chart, and ask all the members of your family to fill in two things for which they are proud of your teen, and two things to keep the teen’s morale high.
  • Once the chart is filled, hang it in your teen’s room.

What they learn:

The huge letter of encouragement is a reminder to your teen that they are not alone and have people they can rely on. The positive things written about them also keep their morale high.

17. Physical activity hour

Image: Shutterstock

Regular physical activity and exercise can help boost a person’s self-esteem (5). Hence, an active lifestyle will not only make your teen healthy but also confident.

What to do:

  • Encourage your teen to choose any sport that involves considerable physical activity.
  • Tell them to spend at least an hour a day on that sport. It would be great if you can play with them.

What they learn:

Playing any sport will make your teen realize that winning and losing are a part of life and not a great deal. It will also instill a sense of sportsmanship in them.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does low self-esteem affect academics in teens?

One of the building blocks of academic success is positive self-esteem (6). Self-esteem can have a significant impact on academic performance. Teens with low self-esteem may find it challenging to focus and have less interest in learning and willingness to take risks.

2. How can self-esteem be measured in teens?

Various tests are used to measure self-esteem in teens. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) and the Name-Letter Test (NLT) are the self-esteem measures often used. The questionnaires and statements in the tests help scale the self-esteem levels. These scales are not strongly correlated (7).

3. How are positive friendships essential to building self-esteem in teens?

Positive friendship can boost self-esteem in teens since it gives a sense of belonging, support, and confidence. There is a reciprocal relationship between self-esteem and social relationships, and positive friendships and feedback can accumulate over time and have effects (8).

Teenagers go through a lot of stress and struggle with low self-esteem. Hence, it is important to help them develop self-esteem and boost their confidence to face the world. The above activities will help your teen build confidence and self-esteem. However, as a parent, you should support your child during this phase and make them understand that you will always be there for them. Also, teach them to love and appreciate themselves and those around them.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Self-esteem and mental health.
    https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/self-esteem
  2. Auden C. McClure, et al; Characteristics Associated with Low Self-esteem among U.S. Adolescents;
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2914631/
  3. 18 Self-Esteem Worksheets and Activities for Teens and Adults (+PDFs)
    https://positivepsychology.com/self-esteem-worksheets/#adults-self-esteem
  4. Robert A Emmons and Michael E McCullough; Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12585811/
  5. Seyed Hojjat Zamani Sani, et al; Physical activity and self-esteem: testing direct and indirect relationships associated with psychological and physical mechanisms.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5068479/
  6. Students experiencing low self-esteem or low perceptions of competence.
    https://www.apa.org/ed/schools/primer/self-esteem
  7. Measures of Self-Esteem.
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780123869159000061
  8. Positive relationships boost self-esteem, and vice versa.
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190926092416.htm
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Sagari Gongala

Sagari was a math graduate and studied counseling psychology in postgraduate college, which she used to understand people better. Her interest in reading about people made her take up articles on kids and their behavior. She was meticulous in her research and gave information that could be of help to parents in times of need. An animal lover, vegan, and...
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Dr. Neha Mehta

(MD)
Gold medalist Neha Mehta is an RCI-registered psychologist, certified relationship and child psychologist, and a well-known parenting coach practicing in Haryana. She has ten years of experience in the field of counseling. Dr. Mehta has completed her Bachelors in medical sciences from Delhi University and Masters in clinical psychology from Amarjyoti Rehabilitation and Research Centre, Delhi. Later, she did a...
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