We spend a good portion of February inundated with all kinds of messages, commercials, stories and songs about love. Most of these are about romantic love, and, let’s be honest, most of them are simplistic and designed to sell you something.

At Shelterwood, we take love seriously. We think unconditional love—the kind offered by God and the kind friends, family members and mentors strive to show—is a powerful healer. We want our students to know on a deep level that they are loved. We also want them to be able to transform that knowledge into self-love.

Why does self-love matter?

Self-love is important but also very hard to foster, grow and maintain. Adolescent girls, in particular, seem to struggle to believe in their value. In fact, research shows that as girls enter their teen years, their self-confidence drops 30 percent on average.

Other pressures weigh on teenagers’ self-concepts. High social media and phone use has been correlated with negative body image, depression, reported unhappiness and suicide risk factors.  

How you can help

Many experts suggest parents begin by encouraging self-compassion skills. They can provide a strong basis for a long-lasting and positive self-relationship.

  1. Teach and model self-kindness. Talk to your teen about accepting all parts of themselves: Their strengths, their weaknesses, their successes, their mistakes. If they struggle with self-criticism, ask them if they would talk to a best friend or favorite family member that way. Help them learn to be gentle with themselves. Learn to be gentle with yourself, too.
  2. Unplug. Re-connect. The tie between screen time and low self-confidence is proven and dire. We all need real connection, and although social media and phones can provide certain levels of interaction, they just can’t compete with positive, face-to-face time. Help provide safe social settings outside of the screen for your child to boost their self-confidence and build strong relationships.
  3. Get moving. It sounds too simple, but physical exercise alone has been shown to raise young people’s self-worth. Social exercise at school or a gym has an even stronger effect, but just moving can do wonders!
  4. Give Back. Studies show kids who regularly pay it forward have higher levels of self-esteem. Seeing how their actions can better someone else’s life is a powerful reminder of their own value. Find opportunities for your teen to use their talents to help others.  

Know a teenager who needs help believing in their worth? Shelterwood’s faith-based residential program can help! Reach out to start a conversation today.