To say the teenage years can be trying is an understatement. Middle and high-school-age kids experience a range of emotions that seems to change minute-by-minute. When adolescents experience these ups and downs, it often chips away at their self-esteem. Although low self-esteem can be harmful to anyone, it's particularly detrimental during the challenging teen years.
During this time, adolescents are often confronted with a variety of changes and developments. As they compare themselves to friends and fellow students, teenagers may develop an unhealthy view of their own lives. Fortunately, there are a variety of self-esteem building activities for kids who suffer from low self-esteem.
Although simple, list-making can be an effective method for building self-esteem in teenagers. To begin, the teen should make a list of at least five things she admires or appreciates about herself. This list can include simple things, such as her pretty smile, or more significant things like earning good grades in school. Each day thereafter, she continues to make a new list. These lists might include her five greatest strengths, five greatest life achievements, five people who love and care about her and her five favorite memories. Tell her to keep these lists in a special place so she can refer to them any time negative thoughts enter her mind. If this activity is done in a group, each teen can share her lists with the other members.
The superhero cape activity requires a large group of adolescents who know each other relatively well. Give each teen a large piece of paper approximately 3 feet by 4 feet. Each member of the group writes their name in large print along one of the 3-foot edges and then cut out a circle from the same end; the circle should be large enough to slide over their heads. When placed over her head, the teen’s name should be displayed across her chest, while the rest of the paper flows behind like a cape. Once the capes have been arranged around the room, the group members then scatter around and write positive affirmations on each other’s capes. Participants should aim to write at least one positive attribute or trait about each group member. At the end of the activity, the teens view their own capes to see what others have written. In many cases, reading these positive statements helps adolescents feel a bit like superheroes with high self-esteem.
The self-esteem collage is similar to the list-making activity, but it takes away a bit of the vulnerability teens may feel when making lists. For this activity, the student simply skims through magazines and clips out words or images to represent his life. These clippings might include words that describe his personality, images of activities he enjoys doing, people he admires, places he enjoys visiting, foods he likes or careers he wishes for. All the magazine clippings should be arranged into a collage. If done as a group activity, have participants post their collages for others to view.
Whether it's caused by work, school, sports, family obligations or something else entirely, stress can seriously impact a teen’s self-esteem. As stress weighs upon an adolescent, he may slowly allow negative thoughts to enter his mind and his self-esteem suffers. To prevent this, it is important for teens to set aside time each day for things they love; a self-esteem calendar can help them stay on track. Give him a blank calendar at the beginning of the month. He should then pencil in small things he enjoys doing for each day of the month. Activities might include baking cookies, watching a movie with siblings, playing a basketball game with friends, having a milkshake or reading a chapter from his favorite book.
Krista Sheehan is a registered nurse and professional writer. She works in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and her previous nursing experience includes geriatrics, pulmonary disorders and home health care. Her professional writing works focus mainly on the subjects of physical health, fitness, nutrition and positive lifestyle changes.