The confidence of almost every tween and teen takes a hit in adolescence. Kids who were spunky, sassy and carefree a few years ago may suddenly seem unsure and anxious. The transition is tough for parents to process. “…A confident child does not automatically become a confident adolescent,” says psychologist Carl Pickhardt. That’s because adolescence brings a triple whammy of physical, psychological and social changes, and tweens and teens are learning how to navigate in unfamiliar territory. 

To build confidence during this critical developmental stage, tweens and teens need a crew they can count on. At Lucero, a crew is any combination of friends and family members who radically support each other. Researchers say this network of close, trusting relationships protects adolescents’ mental health and is the foundation of self-esteem and self-confidence. How does connection build confidence? Here are three important factors:

1. It creates a strong sense of self.

Teens are hardwired for individuation. Part of becoming confident, capable adults is figuring out who they are as unique individuals. But paradoxically, their sense of self depends heavily on the strength of their relationships with others. Young children look primarily to parents and caregivers to provide the blueprint for their beliefs and behavior. During the tween and teen years, the focus shifts to relationships with peers. “…Young people are learning how to manage relationships that are going to ultimately determine how they fare for the rest of their lives, and they sense that in their bones,” says psychologist Joseph Allen. Positive relationships, social support and acceptance help teens feel good about themselves and know they matter to others.

2. It cultivates a growth mindset.

Tweens and teens with a growth mindset believe that talent and intelligence can be developed through hard work. They are willing to persist through challenges and learn from mistakes and setbacks. Not surprisingly, that “I can do hard things” attitude boosts confidence. But it’s tough for adolescents to acquire a growth mindset alone. Without supportive connections, tweens and teens are more likely to get discouraged, doubt themselves, and give up on their goals. In contrast, a crew that believes in and encourages them helps adolescents stay motivated and achieve the small, sequential successes that increase confidence over time.

3. It contributes to self-acceptance.

A big component of confidence is self-acceptance: the ability to be friendly towards our whole selves, including our imperfections. But because their frontal brains are still developing, self-acceptance is challenging for tweens and teens. They rely more on the emotion-driven limbic brain to interpret experiences, which can warp their perception and lead to self-judgment and self-doubt. “During the teen years, it helps to think of the amygdala as the ‘gossiper,’ says psychologist Marwa Azab. “It loves to spread bad news and rumors… So, a teen might end up misperceiving a benign ‘hello’ as ‘I am watching you’ or ‘I noticed that pimple.’\” Connection is the antidote to an overactive amygdala. A network of trusting, supportive relationships provides a more balanced perspective and reminds tweens and teens that they are loved and accepted just as they are.

Speaking of connection… Have you checked out Lucero’s Crew feature? It’s where tweens and teens always have access to radical support from people who care about them. They can captain a Crew by inviting up to seven friends and family members to join them on their self-care journey. Crew members cheer each other on, support each other on the hard days and always apologize if their actions or words hurt someone’s feelings. Lucero sparks meaningful conversations, strengthens relationships and gives tweens and teens a safe space to build confidence through connection.

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