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My son has low self-esteem, how can I help him?

By Karuana Mwai
Low self-esteem is a common challenge for many young people, especially during their teenage years. It can affect their relationships, life choices, their social skills, and their mental health. It can also make them feel unworthy, insecure, or hopeless.

I know how it feels to have low self-esteem as a teenager especially in the context of sexual health and reproductive rights.

I was much younger than my classmates when I started school, and I had to deal with the changes of puberty later than them. I felt left out and inferior when they talked about their experiences with menstruation, and I had not yet gone through it. I became depressed, isolated, and unfocused in school. 

Luckily, I had my older sister who supported me and helped me overcome negative feelings. However, I know that many other young people struggle with low self-esteem without enough support. 

As a parent of a teen son, you may see him doubt himself or avoid social life. You may want to help him improve his self-esteem and confidence. Here are some tips to support your son in building self-esteem and sexual health awareness.

First, you need to understand what self-esteem is and how it works. Self-esteem is the overall opinion a person has about themselves- how they see their strengths and weaknesses, their self-confidence, and their self-worth.

Self-esteem is not something that a person is born with or that remains fixed throughout life. It can change depending on the experiences, feedback, and expectations that a person encounters. Some of the factors that can affect self-esteem include family, friends, peers, media, culture, and personal achievements. Sometimes, these factors can have a positive impact on self-esteem, such as when a person receives praise, recognition, or support. Other times, they can have a negative impact, such as when a person faces criticism, rejection, or bullying.

It’s also important to note that self-esteem plays a key role in shaping one’s attitudes and behaviors, including those related to sexuality. As parents, acknowledging the interconnectedness of self-esteem and sexual health is essential for providing comprehensive support to your teenage son. 

Second, you need to show your son unconditional love and acceptance. Let him know that you value him for who he is, not for what he does or how he looks. Praise his strengths and talents, but also acknowledge his weakness and mistakes. Avoid criticizing, blaming, or shaming him for his shortcomings. 

Instead, help him learn from them and improve himself. Encourage him to express his feelings and opinions regarding his body, relationships, and sexual development among other topics without fear of judgment or rejection. Listen to him attentively and empathetically, and validate his emotions.

Third, you need to help your son develop a positive self-image and a growth mindset. A positive self-image is a realistic and balanced view of oneself that recognizes both the good and the bad qualities. 

A growth mindset is a belief that one can improve their abilities and skills through effort and learning. To foster these traits in your son, you can do the following:

  1. Help him identify his interests and passions, and support him in pursuing them. 
  2. Challenge him to set realistic and attainable goals, and celebrate his achievements. 
  3. Teach him to cope with failures and setbacks, and see them as opportunities for growth. 
  4. Model positive self-talk and affirmations, and avoid negative or harsh words.
  5. Expose him to positive role models and mentors who can inspire him and guide him. 
  6. Discuss the impact of self-esteem on body image and how societal expectations can influence perceptions of attractiveness. 
  7. Encourage a positive body image by emphasizing the uniqueness and beauty of individual bodies. 
  8. Foster a healthy sense of self-exploration by encouraging your son to understand his own desires, boundaries, and values.

Finally, you need to provide your son with a supportive and safe environment where he can thrive. This includes:

  1. Creating a warm and nurturing home atmosphere that fosters trust and communication.
  2. Establishing clear and consistent rules and boundaries that promote respect and responsibility.
  3. Providing him with adequate resources and opportunities that enhance his learning and development.
  4. Providing accurate information about anatomy, reproductive rights, contraception, and consent.
  5. Protecting him from harmful influences and situations that may damage his self-esteem or well-being.
  6. Helping your son develop resilience in the face of societal pressures and expectations regarding sexuality.
  7. Seeking professional help if needed, such as counseling or therapy.

Low self-esteem is not a permanent or fixed condition. It can be improved with time, patience, and care. By following these tips, you can help your son build his self-esteem and confidence, and empower him to live a happy and fulfilling life.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with other parents who might be facing similar challenges. You can also leave a comment below and tell us what strategies have worked for you and your son. We would love to hear from you and learn from your experiences.

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