Raising Confident Teens and Tweens


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Ask kindergartners or first-graders what they’re good at, and many will easily list off the skills or qualities that make them great. A 5-year-old might tell you he’s the fastest runner in his class, even if he’s — well — not.

But as children grow older their inflated confidence begins to slide, says Andrea Hussong, director of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for Developmental Science and a professor of psychology. Tweens and early teens are especially susceptible to bouts of low confidence for multiple reasons.

In addition to navigating biological changes and new social landscapes, adolescents are naturally egocentric, says Kristen Wynns, a child psychologist and owner of Wynns Family Psychology in Cary. This can make them “literally feel like there’s a spotlight on them and that everyone’s looking at them,” Wynns says. “So that’s part of what makes them more vulnerable to self-esteem issues or self-confidence issues.”

This perceived attention might make an adolescent feel as if her peers are judging everything from her appearance to her family’s behavior.

Additionally, adolescents make more social comparisons, especially with their peers. “There’s a lot of competition and comparison going on in those years,” Hussong says, which may cause a dip in their confidence. That 5-year-old in the example above might now, as a tween or teen, say “‘Hmm, I’m not the fastest runner in the class. If I’m not that, who am I?’” Hussong explains.

The Confidence Effect

Having confidence in his or her actions and behaviors can “enhance” a child’s self-esteem and vice versa — so a higher self-esteem can lead to higher confidence, Hussong says.

Chapel Hill mother of two Katy Gilliam notices how her 9- and 11-year-olds’ confidence levels affect them. “When their confidence is high, I believe that it helps all aspects of their lives. It helps them feel balanced and able to handle everyday expectations and stressors,” she says. “When their confidence is off, then it is a domino effect to how they handle their lives.”

Juliellen Simpson-Vos, mother of a 12-year-old daughter in Durham and executive director of Girls on the Run in the Triangle, a program that encourages running as a way to inspire confidence and healthy habits, says confidence helps a tween or teen feel OK with who they are. “Strong confidence and positive self-esteem provide courage to be the person you were meant to be in this world,” she says. “At Girls on the Run, we say confidence is what sparks girls to activate their limitless potential.”

How to Boost Your Child’s Confidence

Hussong says it’s natural for your child’s confidence to ebb and flow during the tween and teen years. Your interactions, however, can make a difference. Here are some tips:

- Don’t forego physical affection. True, your child has probably outgrown some demonstrations of physical affection. But it’s still key when it comes to confidence. “Sometimes parents forget how important that is for kids’ self-esteem, to be hugged,” Wynns says. “Even pats on the shoulder or high fives are really important — to still have the physical affection.”

- Monitor media messages. Whether they see them on TV, online or on a friend’s Instagram feed, kids are bombarded with images and messages that can influence their confidence levels, Wynns says. Keep a watchful eye on your child’s interaction with screens of all sizes. Also, Wynns reminds teens and parents that online friends present an idealistic portrait of their lives on social media — not real life. In fact, research has shown that comparing one’s own life to the idealistic narratives others present on Facebook can foster low self-esteem.

- Let tweens and teens solve their own problems. Hussong encourages parents to help their children foster a sense of agency — a belief that they have what they need to make decisions about their own lives — in order to promote healthy self-esteem. Within reason, let your tween or teen find solutions for her problems, no matter how badly you want to jump in and save the day. Listen and guide her as she addresses the problem, rather than offering a quick fix to ease the pain. Tackling dilemmas can empower your tween or teen.

- Ask a professional for help if you suspect a larger problem. Low confidence alone is not a warning sign of a problem, Hussong explains, since “[teens are] trying to figure out who they are and how they fit in.” But if you suspect depression or if your teen’s attitude veers toward self-loathing or self-hatred, take heed. Wynns advises parents to watch out for a teen who cries easily, retreats from family and friends, exhibits changes in sleep or appetite, or expresses negative or semi-suicidal thoughts. Tweens and teens in less extreme situations can also benefit from professional help.

- Help tweens and teens realize where they shine. “Help your kids find their niche,” Wynns says. “Take note of where your child seems to excel and encourage them to further develop that.” Gilliam’s children demonstrate the relationship between finding a niche and confidence. “My daughter is in competitive gymnastics, which has helped build confidence through her strength training and support of coaches and teammates. My son is involved in musical theater, which also supports and builds his self-confidence,” she explains.

- Plan how you praise. Avoid empty praise. “We definitely know that praising everything can backfire, because then kids start to doubt the sincerity behind the praise,” Wynns explains. Research shows that exaggerated praise can intimidate children with low self-esteem, potentially preventing them from trying for fear of failing, and that the best practice for praise is to focus on the process rather than the results. Praise your child’s hard work in studying for a test rather than the good grade he brings home, or praise specific behaviors. “Being able to be specific about that feedback helps them to see what they’re doing well and gives them something to build on,” Hussong says.

- Encourage giving back. Volunteering or helping around the house can be a boon for your child’s self-esteem. “There’s a definite link between volunteering and giving back and your mood,” Wynns says. “If you’re doing for others and making a contribution to your family or school or society, it ends up helping you feel better, as far as your mood goes, but also to feel better about yourself.”

Laura Lacy is a freelance writer in Chapel Hill.

 

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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Chip, chip, hooray! The first Zambrero in the Southeast is opening on January 24 with zingy, zesty activities! Bodacious Burritos and Bowls: $5 burritos and bowls all day Delicious Drawing: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
1 Glenwood Ave
#105
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: (919) 863-2561
Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Take a hike after dark and enjoy the sights and sounds of a quiet night along the American Tobacco Trail. We will walk to the Beaver Creek bridge and back (about one mile total). Free for ages 4...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Join the Museum and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the big picture — of the Universe! From comet crafts to solar observing, lectures to rocket launches, space enthusiasts of all ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in July! This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds at...

Cost: 0 – $10

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

RALEIGH (Jan. 16, 2020) – The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools will host its first school fair during National School Choice Week on Saturday, Jan. 25. The fair will take...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: NC Association of Public Charter Schools
Telephone: 336-669-9996
Contact Name: Rhonda Dillingham
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Tricky Tracks Saturday, January 25 10-11 a.m. Come dressed for the weather so you can roam the park learning the fine art of “tracking”.   Make a cast of an animal...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Join the statewide kickoff to Black History Month at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society since 2015, the 19th...

Cost: 0

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 East Edenton Street
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Winter days find many animals curled up in their dens. They sleep warmly, awakening in spring ready to enjoy the renewed Earth. Discover how animals deal with cold weather and which ones hibernate...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for all family members,& childre

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

Come support your NC State Gymnastics team as they open the 2020 home season against the Towson Tigers on January 25th at 4 PM. Tickets start at just $3!

Cost: $3-$7

Where:
Reynolds Coliseum
2411 Dunn Ave
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Join us in Arendelle for Frozen-inspired STEAM activities for the whole family! Included in the ticket cost is dinner and dessert for the whole family, make your own sock Olaf and Frozen bouncy...

Cost: $35 per family

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Kidzu Children's Museum
Telephone: 919-933-1455
Website »

More information

AML Wrestling presents our 5th Anniversary Celebration! WHEN: Saturday, January 25th, 2020WHERE: Winston-Salem Fairgrounds in theHome & Garden Building 408 27th Street NW/Gate #9 Winston-Salem, NC...

Cost: $5

Where:
Winston-Salem Fairgrounds
408 27th Street NW/Gate #9
Winston-Salem, NC  27105
View map »


Sponsor: AML Wrestling
Telephone: 336-831-0646
Contact Name: Tracy Myers
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.