Here’s a cool, little-known fact about the word confidence: it comes from the Latin fidere, which means “to trust.” If you’ve used the Lucero App, you might have seen this word before. Hint: It’s the title of Island 2 because the 28-day experience is designed to help improve your sense of confidence.
You could say that to be confident is to trust yourself. Confidence gives teens faith in their own abilities and a secure sense of self-reliance. It’s the cornerstone quality that helps them navigate the changes of adolescence, make good choices and thrive in a rapidly-changing world.
Why Confidence is Key
Teens who lack confidence miss out on critical growth opportunities because they are less likely to take risks, join in activities and speak up for themselves. They may expect to fail or become overly perfectionistic. They’re also more susceptible to depression, anxiety, substance-use, self-harm and being negatively influenced by peers.
High levels of confidence, in contrast, are proven to protect teens’ mental health. Confident teens are more emotionally resilient, optimistic, persistent and self-compassionate. They have more social support and lower levels of common mental health problems like depression and anxiety. And confident teens are more likely to get the most out of opportunities for growth and self-discovery, like challenging classes and team sports. In short, teens who lack confidence struggle, and teens who have confidence thrive.
The Perfect Storm
Adolescence challenges kids’ confidence in multiple, intersecting ways. In the span of a few years, teens undergo seismic shifts in their bodies, brain chemistry, and emotional and social landscapes. In the midst of all that change, they are tasked with crafting their identities and taking on new levels of independence and responsibility. And because they\’re neurologically wired to seek belonging with peers, the opinions of others suddenly matter much more.
These rapid-fire changes test even the most well-adjusted teens. In a study of 1,300 tween and teen girls, authors Claire Shipman, Katty Kay, and JillEllyn Riley discovered that, between the ages of 8 and 14, confidence levels dropped by 30%. “The change can be baffling to many parents,” they write in The Atlantic. “Their young girls are masters of the universe, full of gutsy fire. But as puberty sets in, their confidence nose-dives, and those same daughters can transform into unrecognizably timid, cautious, risk-averse versions of their former self.”
Why You Need a Proactive Plan
Because of the multiple factors that can damage teens’ confidence, it\’s not enough to leave it up to chance. Teens need a proactive plan to gain tools, strategies and habits that build their confidence and keep it high. Here are three things parents can do to put a solid plan in place:
- Keep communicating.
Confident teens know their parents and caregivers are on their team, and they feel comfortable communicating about what matters most to them and any challenges they’re going through. It’s natural, though, for teens to become more guarded and private during adolescence. To keep the lines of communication open, stay curious about your teen’s interests. That’s where they feel most confident and, when they know you care about what’s important to them, they’ll see you as an ally in other areas, too.
- Support them in getting out of their comfort zone.
Taking on a challenge can be scary at any age, but it’s one of the best ways to build confidence. Author Alex Malley says, “Take a risk and take action despite your fear of failure, messing up or embarrassment. If things work out, then you now know you can do more than you think. If things don’t work out, you now know that you can handle more than you think. Either way, you’re better off.” Help your teen explore the world around them and get comfortable taking positive risks. When you know they really want to try something new, be their cheerleader.
- Build healthy habits.
Teens need daily practice to keep their confidence high. Healthy habits like positive self-talk, mindfulness and self-care are essential tools to protect teens’ confidence and boost their self-awareness. Our gamified wellness app, Lucero, was designed with teen confidence in mind; in fact, it’s a key topic in World 1. It’s a fun, no-pressure way for teens to get daily inspiration and encouragement and build healthy habits.