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Boosting Your Teen’s Self-Esteem: Insights and Practical Tips 

By Ellie Crowson - May 16th, 2024 | Posted in Article, News No comments

During teenage years, it is natural to struggle with self-esteem. Adolescence is a time of immense change. From home life and friendships to social media, self-esteem can be shaped by many factors.  

What is self-esteem? 


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A post shared by Tall Ships Youth Trust (@tallshipsyt)

Self-esteem can be tough for young people to describe.  

Essentially, it is your opinion of yourself. This can be categorised into things like self-confidence, self-image, ability to engage with others and build positive relationships. 

What causes low self-esteem?  

Young people who have faced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), where their basic needs have been compromised or not met are more likely to struggle with low self-esteem as they mature. In some cases, a lack of support and care can lead to negative self-perceptions and behaviours like substance misuse or risk-taking. 

Sue Geary, TSYT Skipper and Youth Development/Outdoor Learning Lead said, “We see a lot of young people with low self-esteem as a result of not experiencing kindness or being told nice things about them before.” 

Building self-esteem is a journey. Sometimes, it just takes a single moment of encouragement to make a difference. 

For our Young Ambassador Charlotte, the moments of kindness and opportunity, all came together at the end of a voyage, “Bushy the skipper sat me down and told me how much I’d grown as a person on board and recommended that I came back and became a watch leader. And then I realised that he wasn’t just saying nice things, he had really meant it as I realised, I had made some great friends. The skipper and the mate had allowed me to grow during the trip which was amazing and to be invited back was even better” 

Does social media impact self-esteem?  

The current generation of young people are growing up with social media meaning they are more exposed to pressures on choices, appearance and lifestyle. This is affecting the outlook young people have as they move through to adulthood. 

Sue spoke on the relationship between appearance and self-esteem, “There’s definitely a point on a voyage that the young people start to care less about what they look like, dive straight into the experience and really engage with the voyage to get the most from it.” 

On our voyages, we actively encourage young people to limit their phone usage. By disconnecting from screens, they can fully immerse themselves in the experience using all of their sense, fostering meaningful connections, and focussing on personal growth. 

Fostering self-esteem on our voyages 

Low self-esteem affects young people in different ways and is completely dependent on their lived experiences – background, school environments, friendships, family dynamics, hobbies and interests.  

Voyages are a unique platform for young people to share their experiences, forge new memories, and foster strong friendships. Longer journeys, that can be physically and mentally demanding, provide a powerful setting for the crew to work with the young people on board to build their resilience.  

This includes strategies to help create a positive mindset, helping them bounce back from setbacks or failures and deal with life pressures they may encounter in the future. Building resilience and learning how to manage stressful situations helps improve self-esteem, lessens worry around what other people think and helps them to see what kind of future they can imagine and make happen. 

One parent said: “Since [my daughter] has come back from the voyage l have seen a noticeable change in her. She loved the whole trip and I think it really made a difference that you asked her about her future and her plans. She really felt you listened and encouraged her. I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am for the positive influence this voyage has had in my daughter’s life. These last few weeks have really taken the pressure and worry off me and l love seeing the change in her. What you’re doing makes a difference.” 

Group laying down 2

Building your child’s self-esteem at home 

Understanding and knowing how to best support your child’s self-esteem is pivotal in shaping their confidence and resilience for the future.  

On board our voyages, we encourage the “I am, I have, I can” approach. 

I am, I have, I can approach 

The prompts ‘I am’, ‘I have’ and ‘I can’ considers the skills and talents your child already has, identifies the strategies and support they can access in their lives and focuses on embracing challenge and celebrating their progress and achievements. 

I am: 

Encourage your child to reflect on their strengths and positive attributes: 

  • What positive attributes do you have?  
  • Which 3 words best describe you? 
  • What are you proud of? 
  • What are you good at? 

I have: 

Offer opportunities to talk about the people and strategies that can help them. Notice when young people have used a strategy or asked someone for help. Encourage asking for support with difficult tasks. 

  • Who can help you if you’re struggling?  
  • What strategies or techniques can you use when facing challenges?  
  • What are your goals or aspirations for the future?  
  • What steps can you take to get there?  
  • What skills do you have to help you achieve your ambitions? 

I can: 

Empower them to focus on their capabilities and celebrate their achievements: 

  • What can you do now that you found difficult a few months ago? 
  • What do you struggle with but would be easier with someone else?  
  • What have you done despite it being difficult? 

This encourages a ‘we can do hard things’ ethos. 

If you believe your child is struggling with their self-esteem and think they would benefit from a voyage with us, you can talk to us by calling 02392 832055 or meet the crew at one of our open days across the UK.

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