You Are Here: Helping Children and Teens Derive Their Self-Esteem From the RIGHT Sources
Helping Children and Teens Derive Their Self-Esteem From the RIGHT Sources
Children and Teens Derive Their
Self-Esteem From the RIGHT
Smith (a fifth grade teacher at a Christian school) was rushing in to
teach his next class, when he met one of his students lingering in
"You're going to be late for class."
student turned away, staring out a window. The young man was crying
as he said to Dennis, "The other guys say I am not cool. They tell
me that constantly."
The final bell rang as they walked
toward the classroom, and Dennis gave the student a parting word of
encouragement. "My heart just ached for him," Smith said. "Feeling like he didn't fit in was crushing this kid."
a teacher (and parent), Dennis Smith has seen firsthand the emotional
and social struggles that youth face. "Self-esteem is a huge issue
for all teens," he says, "but especially so for guys. The young
man I met in the hallway was only 11 years old, but his buddies had
been berating him for not being willing to use profanity and for
never having had a sexual experience."
girls: Trying to see clearly in a Photo-shopped world
Coffee is a ninth-grader who enjoys two social structures known to
contribute to positive self-esteem: an affirming family and a healthy
church. But Madison says that even Christian teen girls feel the
pressure to appear "beautiful and perfect in every way." She
said, "From magazine covers, to movies, commercials, at school,
even in youth group - for girls my age, everything is about body
Haley Hughes, a high school senior says, "I am
perfectly content with my body right now. But in middle school, no
way! I was so self-conscious." She observed, "We tell ourselves
that we have to compete with digitally-enhanced magazine covers."
Beverly Odom is assistant director of 24K, a large youth
ministry in Georgia. She says, "Teen girls are constantly
comparing themselves to each other and to images they see in the
media. I often see the body obsession thing linger on into
"That's true," said Haley. "Some
girls at my school would not be your friend if you are a size four or
bigger. It begins to mess with your mind. There are girls I know
who are the same size as me, yet I look at them, and I feel that I am
so much larger."
Developing a sense of how I see me
positive or negative, realistic or not, the views we form of
ourselves during adolescence stay with us for years. Our self-esteem
influences mental acuity, emotional health, and behavior. Odom says, "The pressure on most kids today is just unbelievable. The quest
to be accepted goes on '24-7.' Even Christian teens can lose
sight of all that they have in Christ, and can be pressured to do
things that, deep down, they know are wrong."
do we help the youth in our lives arrive at Biblically-informed,
balanced sense of self? "The kids we've seen flourish are the
ones who accurately understand who they are in Christ," says Odom. "They must draw their identity from Jesus. Parents should try and
steer their kids away from allowing peer-pressure, social posturing,
or the media sour their perspective."
Christian response in a "world about me"
a Christian, there are clear and tangible reasons to feel OK about
who they are. Your child's understanding of his own worth should
be grounded on (and bolstered by) the following realities:
the fact that they are made in God's image;
In the awareness that Jesus personally cares about them;
Through the unconditional love present in your home;
Through the accepting haven provided by one's church;
In their true status as a resident (and heir) of heaven;
In the confidence that God truly has a plan for their life.
truths can be a great source of encouragement, but we know that
emotions don't automatically "catch up" to the facts that we
hold in our mind. Self-esteem issues often feed on irrationality.
We must vigilantly pursue an honest view of ourselves, of our
circumstances, and of our Lord. Feelings shouldn't be allowed to "trump" facts.
Notice that the Christian's self-esteem
is grounded in things outside of themselves. Of the six realities
listed above, none lead us to find our value by comparing ourselves
to others. Somebody will always come along who is prettier, a better
athlete, more wealthy, or who has a higher GPA. In a world of more
than six billion people, that's inevitable.
as a competition, and it doesn't take long to realize that we all
eventually get left in the dust of the next fastest runner. The
comfort is in knowing that we are a priority to Christ.
person's self-esteem must come from their knowledge of Who Jesus
is, and from acceptance of His love and care. This provides lasting
purpose and clear direction even to those traversing the heady,
challenging, and sometimes "tooth-and-claw" years of adolescence.