Encouraging Self-Esteem in Your Middle Schooler

Middle school is a challenging time for parents, but don’t forget, being pre-teen is tough for your child too! The tween years are notorious for being a time of fragile self-confidence. The combination of hormone surges, developing bodies, attraction to the opposite sex, drama with friends, and preparation for impending adulthood can create a whirlwind of emotional instability and insecurity. The omnipresence of social media and the comparison game it invites tweens to play in isn’t helping matters. 

Here are a few ways to keep your child’s self-esteem bolstered up during such a transitional time in their lives.

1. Stay Connected With Your Middle Schooler

Even if it feels like your child is pushing away, stay emotionally connected. While everyone needs to be given space and time to process their feelings from time to time, be sure to check in with your child often. 

  • Text them. 
  • Call them. 
  • Keep up with their social media channels. 
  • Know their friends and build relationships with them. 
  • Get some face-to-face time with your teen every day. 
  • Learn your child’s love language and speak it often. This may mean giving them small gifts, planning an outing for just the two of you, or writing them notes and letters.
  • Even when everyone is busy, keep making family time a top priority in your home. 

Even when it doesn’t feel like it, your teenager still needs you. Perhaps more than ever before. 

2. Be a Constant Source of Encouragement

Affirm and encourage your child as often as you possibly you can. 

“We need to become experts in affirmation to become life-changing and society-changing cheerleaders for children.”

Child psychologist and author Linda Chamberlain says it so well: “Positive, supportive relationships are at the core of recovering from trauma. We need to instill hope while helping children to understand and express their feelings, validating their experiences and helping them to recognize and build on their strengths. Affirmations that help children to believe in themselves (confidence), recognize that they are good at something (competence) and encourage them to share their gift/skill with others (contribution) are essential building blocks of resiliency.” –Alliance for Hope International.

  • Remind your child of their gifts, talents, and strengths. 
  • Reward good character and good behavior whenever you see it. 
  • When your teen is driving you absolutely crazy and you want to sell them to the circus, affirm them even more. 

In many ways, middle schoolers can be like toddlers; their emotions are powerful and often out of their control. It’s important to validate your child’s feelings, no matter how off-the-wall they may seem. Emotions are always valid. What your child needs to learn is that they do control the behavior that comes after the initial emotional reaction. But this takes time, practice, and repetition to master. They aren’t always going to get it right. Your child is not defined by their worst moments, and they desperately need to be reminded of that. They are learning to be good humans, and that process is hard. Help your tween to learn and embrace that their value and worth are inherent and that nothing they do or don’t do can change that. Many of us don’t learn this critical lesson until well into adulthood, if at all. If your teenager can navigate their middle school years with validated emotions and emotional intelligence, they will be better equipped for every stage to come. 

3. Don’t Forget, These Years Will Pass

When you’re a middle schooler, the crisis happening right this moment feels like it will last forever. It’s so hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Help your child understand that everything, no matter how overwhelming, will eventually pass. Braces, bad skin, awkward growth spurts, relational drama, and middle school itself are all, blessedly, so very temporary. Middle school will pass. Your child’s value, worth, and unique gifts to offer the world will not. Help them to always remember that. 

How do you help reinforce your child’s self-esteem? At Virginia Academy, we believe that secondary education provides a great opportunity not only to prepare students for acceptance to top colleges but also to become the best versions of themselves—confident and successful individuals equipped to make a positive impact in every arena of life. Want to learn more? Start here.