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When teenagers have confidence and resilience, they’re better able to tackle difficult situations and bounce back from tough times. You can help build your child’s confidence by focusing on effort rather than outcomes.

Teenaged girl in red hat smiling
 

The basics

Confidence is the belief that you’ll be successful in a particular situation or at a specific task. Your confidence is related to your self-esteem, which is feeling good about yourself and feeling that you’re a worthwhile person. But having high self-esteem doesn’t mean you always feel confident.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficult experiences and cope in hard or stressful situations.

Resilience and confidence are related. If your child has resilience and learns that she can cope when life is difficult, it will leave her feeling more confident to tackle difficult situations. It’s a positive cycle.

Why confidence is important for teenagers

Having confidence helps teenagers make safe, informed decisions. Confident teenagers can have the ability to avoid people and situations that aren’t necessarily right for them, and to find those that are.

If your child is confident, he’s more likely to be assertive, positive, engaged, enthusiastic and persistent.

For example, a confident teenage girl whose boyfriend breaks up with her might be upset for a little while. But then she might realise that she can bounce back from the sadness she’s feeling now and focus more on the positive aspects of her life, such as other friends and family. On the other hand, a girl who feels less confident in her relationship skills might be much more upset, or even feel that it was all her fault. This could also affect her self-esteem, and leave her feeling that she isn’t worth dating.

Teenagers with low confidence are less likely to join in activities, more likely to hold back in class, and might be more willing to give in to peer pressure. When a child lacks confidence, he might expect to fail at things he tries, or to not try as hard when things get tricky.

Building your child’s confidence and resilience

Here are some tips to help you and your child build your child’s confidence and resilience:

  • Work out practical and positive things your child can do to build skills and increase her chances of success. For example, ‘Ada, if you want to be picked for the basketball team, you need to make sure you’re listening to the coach and practising between sessions’.
  • Give your child opportunities to try new things . When your child tries lots of different things, he’ll get to know what he’s good at and what he enjoys. He’ll also learn that most people do well at some things and not so well at others – and that’s fine. After all, we can’t all be Olympic athletes, computer geniuses or rock gods!
  • Encourage your child to try again if she fails, and help her understand that everyone makes mistakes. It’s OK if you can’t do something the first time you try. 
  • Model confidence in your own ability. You might talk to your child about what you’re going to do to try to be successful at a task. If it doesn’t work out, you can model resilience by talking about what you’re going to try next time. You can also discuss things you’ve done that might have been scary or tough for you to do, showing your child that you’ve also been through times when you’ve needed confidence.
  • Encourage your child to act confident. Suggest to your child that he makes eye contact with others, is bold, does what he loves, tries not to focus on what he can’t do, and walks away from situations he knows aren’t good. Acting confident is the first step to feeling confident.
  • Praise your child’s efforts. If an exam, interview or game doesn’t work out the way your child hoped, try to praise her for the effort she put into the activity. You could also suggest some ideas about what she could do differently next time.
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Your teenager still needs a strong relationship with you to feel confident as he meets the challenges of adolescence. You can build this strong relationship by working on open communication and staying connected.

Risks to teenage confidence

Your child’s confidence might be at risk if you, she or other people she respects focus on her outcomes rather than her efforts. If the outcome is a ‘failure’ (a poor exam result, a grand final loss), it can seem like the end of the world. Instead, you can send your child a powerful message about what makes you proud – will it be how hard your child tried, or the number of goals she scored?

During adolescence, physical changes can also affect teenagers’ confidence. If a teenager feels self-conscious about his body, it can affect his confidence overall and how he feels about himself. You might like to read our article on teenage body image to learn more about this. 

Bullying, or peer pressure to not be different, can also affect teenagers’ confidence.

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  • Last Updated 10-05-2011
  • Last Reviewed 17-05-2011
  • Acknowledgements

    This article was written with help from Emma Little, an educational and developmental psychologist.

  • Arrington, E.C., & Wilson, M.N. (2000). A re-examination of risk and resilience during adolescence: Incorporating culture and diversity. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 9(2), 221-230.

    Carver, C.S. (1998). Resilience and thriving: Issues, models, and linkages. Journal of Social Issues, 54, 245-266.

    Dumont, M., & Provost, M.A. (1999). Resilience in adolescents: Protective role of social support, coping strategies, self-esteem, and social activities on experience of stress and depression. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 28(3), 343-363.

    Fuller, A. (1998). From surviving to thriving: Promoting mental health in young people. Melbourne: ACER.

    Roth-Herbst, J., Borbely, C.J., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2008). Developing indicators of confidence, character, and caring in adolescents. In B.V. Brown (Ed.), Key indicators of child and youth well-being: Completing the picture (pp. 167-196). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Pre-teens

9-11 years