Building self-confidence for tweens

The tweens can be a confusing time. Not quite a teen, not really a child - there’s a lot happening. One thing that can help kids navigate the bridge between childhood and the teens is a healthy dose of self-confidence. Psychologist Dr. Sasha Lynn looks at how tweens can work on feeling good about themselves.

Recently, there’s been a lot of interest in the years between child and teenager; that is, the ages of 9-12. It's nicknamed the ‘tweens’ because the age range falls between childhood and adolescence. It’s recognised as a time when development is rapid and can shape kids as they head into the teen years. 

It’s a time of social growth, physical growth and for some, the start of puberty. Kids may not really feel like a ‘kid’ anymore but they’re not a teenager either. Talk about confusing!

And it can be confusing for parents too, as we negotiate how to manage kids who aren’t really kids anymore. How much rope do we give? How much should we hover? 

Of all the factors involved in tweenhood, one of the biggest areas to develop is self-confidence. Suddenly kids move from the innocence of young childhood and the ‘gospel of Mum and Dad’ to being more aware of themselves and those around them. They can start to notice differences between themselves and other kids their age. What they wear, how they look, the way they achieve in class, how sporty they are; it all becomes big business for tweens. And that can certainly impact how they feel about themselves.

Self-confidence isn’t something that automatically appears; often it’s something we need to learn and develop over time. While it’s important for kids of all ages, the ‘tweens’ in particular is a vulnerable time. It’s about building a sense of self-confidence and self-worth. Try these ideas to support good self-confidence in your tween:

Three good things

Each day, have your tween come up with three good things about themselves. The key here is that they don’t just focus on physical attributes or skills, they focus on all the sorts of things they feel they do well at. It could be feeding the family pet, smiling at others, trying their best, listening or even laughing! Have them write their ‘three things’ in a little notebook, and soon enough, they’ve built up a fantastic resource they can look back on when they’re feeling a bit down.

Focus on effort, not outcome

A big part of confidence, is resilience; the ability to bounce back in difficult moments. Helping your tween to look at the great effort they’ve put in can foster their confidence and resilience. Even if things don’t work out, if they’re happy with their effort that’s the important part. 
tween doing a handstand

It’s okay to fail!

Mistakes are okay. In fact, mistakes are good. It’s how we learn and grow. In having a healthy self-confidence, it’s handy to help tweens see that they don’t have to get things right all the time and nobody does. While failing might seem earth shattering at the time, they can emerge stronger, wiser and it could actually lead to something better down the track.

Look outward

We can get all caught up in ourselves and our short-comings. Looking outward and focusing on doing nice things for others can work two-fold. It can help distract from the issue at hand, but also provide an opportunity to reflect on being in service to others, which can make us feel good. Help your tween to look outward by volunteering or donating some of their toys to less fortunate kids, helping the family pet or looking after a sibling or relative. 

Model self-confidence

Although by the time they hit the tweens, kids are starting to move away from parents and looking more toward peers - they still come back to us for help with the big stuff. If we want them to have healthy self-esteem, we need to be able to model it for them. Openly reflect on things you think you do well or that you know you’ve given your best shot at - even if things haven’t worked out. Show how you cope if your confidence takes a hit. 

While the tween years can be a maze of rolling eyes, attitude and grumbles, it can also be a great time of growth and development. With a good dose of self-confidence, your tween can come through the other side ready to take on the world. 
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