How to help a teenager with low self esteem.

Encountering a teenager with low self-esteem can be heartbreaking. It’s especially heartbreaking if it’s your own teen. One of the top things that can contribute to depression and anxiety in teenagers is low self-worth. In this blog post, I am going to discuss practical ways you can help a teenager with low self-esteem.

DO:

Provide information:

A negative self-view comes from negative thought patterns about oneself. A teenager with low self-esteem might worry about their weight, appearance, grades or perceived intellect. Given that there are a variety of issues that a teenager might struggle with, helping to normalize the experience is a must. Letting teenagers know that they are not alone is one of the biggest bits of help in my practice. I often provide them education surrounding the stats of how many teens struggle with negative self-talk and perception. A great place to start is dosomething.org.

Listen and Reflect:

Another way to help teens with low self-esteem is to simply validate how they are feeling. Often times teens feel as if they are completely isolated, that no one knows what they are experiencing. Simply validating their struggles ( not the negative thinking but their experiences) can be a refreshing thing. Empathy goes a long way with teenagers. Letting them know that you are listening by saying things like “It sounds like you feel alone” or “It must be really hard to feel left out.”

Offer to get them help:

Sometimes you can’t be the person to give them the help they need. Sometimes the ear they need is yours and the practical help they need is from a professional. Offer to help them by finding a professional, like me, to help them with their self-esteem.

Affirm them:

Give them positive affirmations. When they aren’t expecting it affirms them. Tell them, unprompted you are proud of them, tell them they look great today.

DON’T:

Dismiss them:

If a teen says something like “I look so fat in this” don’t simply brush it off by saying things like “Stop saying things like that.” This isn’t helpful to someone with low self-esteem. If anything it only makes them feel like they can’t come to you with their insecurities about their body, or grades or whatever they are struggling with.

Allow the pattern to go on too long unchecked:

Most times if a teen is starting to vocalize their low self-esteem out loud, they have been dealing with it for much longer in their head. Hit it head on from there and don’t let it spiral out of control.

FINALLY:

This isn’t the end all, be all list of how to help a teen with low self-esteem but it’s a good starting place. If you know a teen or have a teen that struggles with self-esteem, in the Vancouver WA area, don’t hesitate to go to www.teencounselingwa.com/contact and make an appointment today!

5 ways to handle online bullying, for teens.

As a teen therapist, it's alarming how many teens, especially girls, come into my office with horrific stories about being bullied online. So many teens come in hurt, feeling powerless to stop the harassment and bullying they receive on social media. It has even driven some teens to commit suicide. The fact of the matter is, you aren't powerless, there are steps you can take to limit online bullying. So here are 5 ways to combat online bullying. 

1. Don't respond - When someone says something mean or hurtful to us, our automatic reaction is to defend ourselves or be mean back. This is a classic bullying trap. The reason someone says something mean to us is to get us to react. When we react we fulfill their wish! So don't even engage with the person if they are being mean to you. 

2. Realize you are in control-If someone says something mean about you or your friends an easy thing to write is "Sorry, I don't engage in negative talk with other people so I'm not going to respond or I have to delete your comment." Remember, you are always in control of how you respond to someone and social media apps give you the ability to control the things that are on your profile.

3. Kill em with kindness- Nothing throws a person off, who is trying to be mean, than to say something nice back to them.  Them:"You're an idiot!" You; "I really like your profile picture, you have a nice smile" Now they might keep coming back at you with mean things, but how does it look to other people when they view what's going on? You come off as nice and they come off as rude and mean. 

4. Delete your apps. - I know what you're saying. NO WAY! NOT GONNA DO IT JEREMY. I get it social media is your social connection. You really have to ask this question though, is it doing more harm than good? When you get off of Instagram or Facebook or Twitter, do you feel good about yourself or do you feel terrible about who you are and what people are saying to you? If you answered yes to that, it may be time to delete your apps.  No app is worth those terrible feelings and thoughts that get put into your head because you are on them and no person deserves to be bullied. You can delete the app and stop the bullying at once. 

5. Choose your friends wisely- This may be the most important one. The people we choose to befriend on social media should be chosen wisely. The Bible gives us blueprints for whom we should make part of our lives. Do they practice the fruits of the spirit? Love, joy, peace patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control or do they tear others down, make fun of people, try and get others to fight, say hateful things or cause problems with other people? So many teens get surprised when the people they are hanging out with and often times joining in on making fun of other people with, suddenly become bullied by the same people themselves. 

The fact of the matter is that cyber bullying happens, but you don't have to be the victim of it.  I always tell my teens this word of advice in the counseling room, "You can't control what someone else does to you but you can control how you respond to them." Your real power is in who you surround yourself with, how you do or don't respond and what actions you do to keep yourself safe. Remember, no one deserves to be bullied or made fun of but if you find yourself on the end of it choose to not be a victim of it.  

APPS YOU SHOULD BE AWARE OF, THAT YOUR TEEN MAY HAVE

Technology is a wonderful thing. When I was made aware of the internet I was around 13 years old. This little cd disk ( who has those anymore??) came in the mail with the the words AOL written on them. I had no idea what to do with it but I was pretty sure this was the internet that my friends had all been talking about. Soon  my parents had it set up on the computer and I was surfing the internet like a pro. It was like a magical world where i could talk with my friends, look up info for school projects and find just about anything. 

It was also a recipe for disaster. Along with the perks of the internet a very dangerous world started to emerge. As a teen at the tip of my fingertips a world opened to me full of pornography, online predators and bullying. 

As technology has grown, from computers to smart phones, the dangers still remain the same. Teens have far easier access to pornography, bullying each other and yes sending explicit texts or pictures to each other. So I'm going to give you a list of apps that you may want to keep in mind if your teen has a phone. 

1. YIK YAK- YIK YAK- Yik Yak is a social media posting tool. The owners of YIK YAK call the app "an anonymous social wall for anything and everything." Users create a post and others down or up vote it and then can comment on it. After 2 down votes it disappears. The app is rated 17+ and it was used for college kids on campus to post about campus parties and happenings but it fast spread to high school and middle schoolers. The app has now become a way to post rumors and bully others.

2. Tinder- Wait what? If you don't already know,Tinder is a dating app that  mostly college age and young adults use to find dates or random hookups. You post a photo of yourself, Tinder finds other profiles and you swipe right if you like them or left if your not interested. However users as young as 13 have gotten access to this and have posted on Tinder. 

3. KIK Messenger- KIK allows you to make your own screen name and allows teens to message random strangers. This app has been known to be used to text explicit messages with. 

5. Ask,FM- Ask.FM allows users to correspond via question-answer format. People post questions and then people provide answers. Just like anything though it has turned into a bullying free for all. It was banned in UK schools, after incidents of extremely bullying came to light. The app is also linked to a 12 year old girl from Florida's suicide.

6. Snap Chat- Almost EVERY teen I know has snap chat but what parents may not know is that this app is sometimes used for teens to send racy and sexual pictures to other people. The app is supposed to delete the picture and file within 30 or so seconds of sending it, however it has been shown that the files are  never truly deleted. Here is a Parent's Guide to Snap Chat. 

So the question is "What should I do if I find these apps on my teens phone?" Communication, communication, communication. Have a chat with your teen about these apps and ask what they like about it? Then talk with them about what some problems they might with the app. Communicate with them your concerns and let them now you care for them, respect them but if at some point you find out the apps are being abused, as a parent (who more than likely pays for their phone) you will have to have them hand over the phone to put restrictions on it.