Approximately 40% of teens have low self esteem and get seriously depressed each year. It is at this stage when kids face a whole new set of difficult challenges growing up. Since they are coping with physical, emotional, and intellectual changes, they are usually moody, self-centered, and unpredictable. They are searching for their own identity and are usually critical of parents. Expect your teen to be strongly influenced by media and interested in trying out new behaviors.
So how do we help in improving a teenager’s self esteem and prevent depression? According to Ceridian Lifeworks Services, there are essentially eight rights that both parents and teens need to recognize and practice. These rights serve as the basis for an effective parent/teen relationship.
Right to acceptance
This is the first step toward positive interactions with adolescents. Both parents and teens need to be accepted for who they are. Comparisons to others should be avoided. Parents need to encourage positive behaviors and focus on strengths. We need to resist the impulse of molding our kids to something or someone they’re not but we should be open to and encourage new opportunities for learning. We must be good role models to our kids by making positive changes, admit mistakes and focus on our own positive traits. We should do our best to feel confident and comfortable with who we are.
Right to respect
As parents, we need to keep in mind that setting an example of respectful behavior is one of the most powerful things we can do as a parent. Showing respect between spouses and other family members is a critical way of setting this example.
Always remember that we’re not doing our kids any favor if we tolerate any disrespectful behavior. They may behave innapropriately particularly when they’re with friends or other family members. Name-calling, derision, sarcasm, ridicule, labeling, hitting, or any other behavior indicating lack of respect should not be tolerated in any way. We need to be clear and consistent in our expectations from them. Both parents and adolescents must have an understanding that both have the right to be respected at all times.
Right to full range of feelings
Both parents and kids are entitled to all feelings – including positive and negative – and must be allowed to experience anger, fear and sadness in an appropriate manner. Keep in mind that screaming, swearing, slamming doors, and other inappropriate behaviors must not be permitted but the basic right to be angry with someone should not be denied.
Right to point of view
Both parents and kids each have their own point of view or perspective which doesn’t often agree with each other. It is unrealistic for us parents to expect our kids to share our perspectives on all matters and not challenge them occasionally. However, it is also important for our children to know and understand that their point of view is secondary in some areas. Like for instance, if it might be ok for some adolescents for someone to drink and drive. We, as parents need to have a firm and clear rule about not drinking and driving or even be with someone who is drinking and driving. In this case, our perspective supersedes the teen’s beliefs.
Right to be heard
Here, family members need to develop the skill of expressing themselves appropriately and to really listen to each other. Expressions like “I don’t want to hear it” and “That’s ridiculous” are not productive at all.
Right to imperfection
This is about us (both parents and children) recognizing that we have the right to make mistakes, be less than perfect and occassionally make inappropriate choices and decisions. We as parents need to do our best with the information and resources we have. We cannot be expected to have all the answers all the time. We must be able to tolerate our own imperfection as well as that of our teens. Parents and children also need to develop the capacity to acknowledge when they have made a mistake.
Right to privacy
Parents and children need to recognize that both is entitled to a certain amount of privacy. It would be helpful to establish basic guidelines on the privacy issue like knocking before entering on someone else’s bedroom, not going through someone else’s possessions, allowing phone conversations privately, not opening up someone else’s mail, etc. Teens must understand that eventhough they have the right to privacy, parents will suspend the rules under extreme circumstances like if the kids are suspected using drugs or stealing, etc. These rules and conditions can be discussed and agreed upon beforehand.
Right to the truth
Leading by setting an example is very critical in determining the relationship between teens and parents. We need to realize that teenagers themselves often feel that their parents are less than honest with them too. Again, being a good role model is very critical here. Establish clear and firm rules with them that you expect to be informed and to be told the truth. However, it is equally important that you must recognize that teens may occassionally lie to you as they explore new behaviors in their quest for figuring out their identity or just want to protect you from being disappointed with their behaviors. Either way, we as parents need to keep in mind that lying doesn’t have to lead to a permanent breakdown in trust nor does it mean that the child will be a dishonest adult.
So, there it is. If both parents and children would recognize and practice these essential eight rights, it would really help not only in improving a teenager’s self esteem but also establishes an effective and harmonious relationship with each other.