How do I help my teen with low self esteem?

Date: 08/11/2023

Title: How can I help my teen with low self esteem?

00:00:00 Speaker 1
You. How do you help your teenager combat low self esteem? Well, that's what we're talking about
today on Tips on Teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist,
and I specialize in helping kids, teens, and families live happier lives. I lead two organizations
teen Therapy Center and the nonprofit 501 c three organization, child and Teen Counseling,
both here in Woodland Hills, California. Every Wednesday at noon, I jump on Facebook Live to
answer your parenting questions. Let's jump into today's. My 14 year old son has really low
self esteem, and I just don't know what to do about it. He compares himself to others a lot, and
I hear him say negative stuff about himself all the time. Also, it's really hard to get him to
try new things. I'm guessing this is because of his lack of self confidence. I try to be supportive
and encouraging and say good things about him. I try to tell him and show him I love him too. It
just feels like nothing's working, and I'm

worried he's going to miss out on the best parts of being a teen. What can I do? Well, I think the
good thing is you're probably already doing a lot already. You're trying to be supportive,
you're trying to be loving, trying to share kindness with him, which is a huge, huge step. I think
the biggest thing a parent can do to help a kid with their self esteem is to share love. Not by saying
what's good about the kid, but just by sharing that you enjoy being with them. If you guys have
weekly Saturday morning hikes, just sharing, you know what? I love being with you. I love being
next to you even if you're not talking. I like being near you and sharing that with them, even
if there are times you don't like. Like, let's say, your kids kind of grumpy and this and that,
but still you love your son or you love your daughter, whoever it may be, and focusing on that,
that you love just being with them, even if they're going through this really tough time of low
self esteem, which is rampant among

teenagers. We were teenagers once. We all struggled with low self esteem in one way or another.
Many of us may still struggle with this, and it's important that when we're teenagers, we find
a way to deal with this. And I think one of the big ways to focus on is a three pronged approach.
Three things to focus on. It's having a sense of autonomy, having this kid have a sense of mastery
and a sense of purpose. So what are all these three things? Autonomy is an ability to in a healthy
way, in a developmentally reasonable way, be able to make decisions for themselves, have an
ability to do what they want to do. Is your 14 year old son able to have some independence and some
choice in their world within reason, mastery. Is there something that they can do that's intrinsically
theirs. They don't have to be the best in the world. And that's where I think the big thing that
a lot of kids struggle with, they feel like, well, if I do it, I've got to be the best. And that's
not realistic because nobody

is the best. There's always someone better. Boy that's painting or dancing or soccer or piano
or theater or student body or whatever it may be, make sure they have a sense of something that
they can do that is something that is theirs, that they practice and work at, and a sense of purpose.
What gets them out of bed? What are they working for? A lot of times all these things are interconnected,
and it's tough to have all these as a 14 year old, and I get that, but you want to start working towards
that when your kid starts talking negatively about themselves. The last thing I want you to
do, even though you're going to be compelled to do this, is to contradict them. If your kid says,
oh, I'm stupid, I'm not as good looking as this person, I'm not as good as that person, the last
thing you should do is say, that's not true. You're just as good as them, even though you may be
right. It's not about you being right. It's about your kid feeling like you're not understanding.
You're missing the

point. And clearly you're clueless because you don't see what they see, instead validate their
feelings. Hey, I hear you. I feel that you really feel down about yourself and you're feeling
upset and frustrated. I get it. We've all felt that way. And we can communicate that. We don't
have to go into details of how we felt that way unless they ask. But we all know how it feels to be
down, to have our face in the dirt. Metaphorically speaking, we've all picked ourself back
up. He just doesn't know how to do that because he hasn't really done it that much. And so I think
it's more important that you sit there and listen, have the arm around the shoulder and don't
contradict. Keep acknowledging what you love about him. I think that's really important.
Keep encouraging him to try new things, even though I'm sure that's scary. And also a big part
of that is, and I don't know if this is an issue with this child, but get your kid off screens. I'm
not saying all the time because I know that's not

realistic, but have limited screens, so there's room for other things. Screens diminish one's
ability or one's focus on their ability to overcome resilience, to try, because screens present
a fictional world where everything comes easy and great and wonderful. All the heroes that
we love about, they get magical powers and they become the greatest of all time pretty quickly.
Social media, all these social media influencers present themselves as these amazing, wonderful
lifestyles that anyone can have. But of course, it's all fantasy, it's all fiction. So it's
really important that you have some regulation on screens and also talk about what they're
seeing and what's influencing them. Anyways, it's a big topic. If you feel like that's not enough,
you can always reach out. Find a therapist for your kid or group therapy. I know, like, I run a
group for teenage boys called the Guys Group. For high school boys struggling with self esteem,
needing more social support. It's a lot of fun. So find

resources for your son if there's just not enough at home for him or at school. Again. My name
is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed therapist. I lead teen therapy center and child and teen counseling.
If you liked your question answered here on tips on teens, email us at
Thank you so much. I'll see you guys next Wednesday. And have a good week. Bye.

Teens and Low Self Esteem

Just about everyone struggled with low self esteem when they were teenagers, and many people still do as adults. 

When your kid starts to display signs of low self esteem or say negative things about themselves, your first instinct will be to contradict them. You love your kids so much and you’ll try to convince them to see themselves the way you see them: as wonderful. Believe it or not, this won’t help. If you try to respond with counter-arguments as your child expresses negative thoughts or self doubt it will only make them feel like you’re not listening and you don’t understand them.

Make them feel seen and heard

What your kid needs in those moments is empathy, and a sympathetic ear. They need a sense of validation and to feel like you’ve heard them. Don’t try to argue with them about why they’re great and not all those other negative things they’re feeling. Instead, try saying “hey, I get it, you’re really feeling down about yourself right now.”

Ultimately the most important thing you can do as a parent to help your kid with low self esteem is share your love for them. Show them and make them feel that you love being around them. It’s a big topic with a lot to unpack, and we talk about it in this Tips on Teens:

“My fourteen year old son has really low self esteem and I just don’t know what to do about it. He compares himself to others a lot, and I hear him say negative stuff about himself all the time. Also, it’s really hard to get him to try new things. I’m guessing this is because of his lack of self confidence. I try to be supportive and encouraging, and say good things about him. I try to tell him and show him I love him too. It just feels like nothing’s working and I’m worried he’s going to miss out on the best parts of being a teen. What can I do?”


Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: We love to hear from you!

Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE!  Check out our page here –

If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.