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Building Self-Esteem

One of the causes and consequences of drug or alcohol addiction is low self-esteem. Part of holistic treatment includes rebuilding that positive self-image.  Having that confidence in one’s own abilities and worth makes long-term recovery easier to achieve. During and after drug or alcohol rehabilitation, take an active role in building your teen’s self-esteem. These seven points will help you address your teen’s unique needs.

Be Affectionate

Addiction wreaks havoc on relationships. Rebuilding trust can be difficult. Showing affection is not only a way to reconnect, but a way to show the value he or she brings to your life. Beyond hugs, you can write a note, tell a fond memory, or simply have fun. Lighten the mood, and show that you are excited to have your son or daughter back. These small things acts of love will grow self-love, and self-esteem, in your teen.

Reward Effort Instead of Outcome

In life, everyone falters once in awhile. A low score on a test, hanging out with the wrong people, or arriving late to a meeting is not the end of the world. In the same way, earning an A+, befriending a health fanatic, or going to every meeting is not a sign of complete recovery. Remember what’s actually important: trying to change to a healthier lifestyle. Express concern when things are going poorly and joy when they are going well. Most of all, celebrate the effort he or she is putting into living in recovery. Doing so will grow your teen’s confidence.

Nurture Your Own Self-Esteem

It’s easy to overlook your own well being when your teen is going through tough times. Remember that you, too, are also going through tough times. Are you blaming yourself? Are your past experiences affecting how you feel about today? What part does negativity play in your life? Seek help from professionals, books, articles (like this one), or meetings (like Al-Anon) to help build your own self-esteem. Share your experiences with your teen, and become a role model through your own actions.

Help Set Realistic Beliefs

Teens tend to think in extremes. “I’ll never be able to…” and “I must always…” are phrases that show low self-esteem. Whether his or her concerns relate to academics, relationships, physical appearance, or any other topic, you can help your teen see the middle ground. Teach them how to see themselves and the world around them realistically. Doing so doesn’t mean goals have to be unambitious; it means reaching those goals won’t be impossible or a cake-walk. With high self-esteem, they’ll be able to set realistic goals and reach them despite the doubts and setbacks.

Give Positive Feedback

In both good and bad situations, you can help your teen see how he or she reacted well. Say that you appreciate his or her honesty, hard work, help, or other positive quality. This can be hard when your teen has made a mistake, but a kind word from you makes all the difference. Pointing out these qualities, no matter how small, encourages your teen to nurture them, and helps build his or her self-esteem.

Have a Loving Home

You can’t control what goes on throughout your teen’s day. You can, however, have a safe place for him or her to come to. Make your home open, honest, and non-judgmental. Sometimes this means giving your teen space and time to work through things on his or her own. Sometimes this means asking about his or her problems. Sometimes this means sitting down to watch a movie you both enjoy. Essentially: Let your teen be him- or herself at home, which will build on his or her self-esteem.

Encourage Cooperation Over Competition

Team sports are a great way for individuals to contribute to a group’s success. While this can be very good self-esteem building for some, it also makes others feel out of place, unwanted, or incapable. When your teen’s team doesn’t win, point out how his or her cooperation with the team made the game enjoyable. If sports aren’t an option, seek other activities for cooperation. Scouting, 4-H, and volunteering provide fantastic opportunities to build self-esteem.