Adolescents who engage in risky behaviors often demonstrate poor life skills and low self-esteem
Adolescence is a very special time in our life journey. You are no longer a child, but not yet an adult. It is during this critical stage that the person tears himself away from childhood to become someone else. This period is the time when one’s old reference points vis-à-vis one’s family are questioned and new values are constructed.
Teenagers in pain
This natural process of individualization can also be associated with suffering and conflict and thus give rise to particularly risky behavior among adolescents. Naturally, such behaviors are linked to the search for self-reliance and autonomy, however, they can be an ambivalent way of appealing to their loved ones. Whatever the reason, we should always remember that these behaviors can be harmful and even have dire consequences.
Self-esteem: a protective factor
Adolescents who are excessively prone to risk taking and impulsivity often have poorly developed psychosocial skills and low self-esteem. These behaviors typically involve substance use, self-inflicted violence, and unprotected sexual activity.
These are of course generalities: a good self-image is not a foolproof shield against risky behavior either. Nevertheless, those who have a good opinion of themselves generally make better life choices, including in adolescence. They are also more resilient and better able to cope with difficulties.
This self-esteem is built up from childhood, with support from the family.
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Nurturing self-esteem and the esteem of others, from childhood
Self-esteem cannot be passed on by parents in the same way that blue eyes or a matte complexion are; it is developed by children, day after day, with the help of parents. There is an adage that says that a good education gives a child roots to grow and wings to fly. It is true, a child needs the solid foundation of their family as well as the self-confidence to leave it one day – to start a new one perhaps!
A critical part of this process consists in helping our children develop good self-esteem, i.e. the confidence in their ability to cope with life’s many challenges and the feeling that they are worthy of happiness. Having self-esteem entails confidence in our own worth and in our right to be treated with kindness and respect.
A trusting relationship with adults
For a child to develop a good self-image, a trusting relationship with significant adults is crucial. If, from the very beginning, you treat your child with respect and love and accept them as they are, you create a context that allows them to internalize these messages. Gradually, they will develop a clear sense of their own value and that of others.
You must also respect the child’s need to do things by themselves and to struggle in the learning process. At one point or another, dedicated parents may want to step in and show them how to solve the problem. It should be avoided: difficulties are part of the learning process and overcoming them, by virtue of their own efforts, is essential for the child.
The right measure
Nurturing good self-esteem means giving your child a realistic view of their own abilities and value. Neither too little nor too much. Treating your child like the Eighth Wonder of the World and letting them do whatever they want is not doing them any favors.
Excessively high self-esteem can be just as damaging as low self-esteem. According to some experts, serial bullies often have inordinate self-esteem, and their violent behaviors may arise from a personal sense of superiority and entitlement. Faced with frustrations linked to unrealistic expectations, people with too high an opinion of themselves could be more inclined to display violent attitudes.
The prevention of addictions and other risk behaviors starts in the family!