My child is in a confidence slump. What is going on?

Article at a Glance

  • Understanding childhood milestones will help identify why your child is in a confidence slump.
  • It may be difficult to reach your teen who struggles, but it is not impossible.
  • Provide opportunities and teaching moments to help build confidence.

Emily’s 13-year-old daughter Savannah was always outgoing. When Savannah first entered junior high, she had grand plans to get involved in as many things as she could at school. But ever since Savannah didn’t make the school’s basketball team, Emily has noticed her daughter losing interest in joining other clubs and teams. This kind of confidence slump can be concerning, but it isn’t uncommon at this age.

Middle Childhood Slumps

Children at this age begin to develop a better sense of awareness of their skills. They also recognize what they lack as a result, which could lead to a confidence slump.

Lowered confidence may stem from adjusting to school life, trying to live up to expectations, or not getting along with others. It is important for us as parents to be aware of what’s happening in our children’s lives so we can be there to help them when they are down.
Signs of Middle Childhood Confidence Slumps

  • Sudden loss of interest in things they normally enjoy
  • Saying negative things about themselves
  • Not wanting to socialize
  • Handling failure poorly

Helping Kids Build Confidence

You can’t undo a failed tryout, but you can get to the root of what builds confidence. Here are some confidence-building basics from Berkeley:

  • Sign your child up for a skill-builder like sports, art, dance, or music.
  • Be a good role model of handling failure and expressing self-confidence.
  • Provide kids with opportunities to serve others.
  • Recognize their strengths and focus on praising their effort and determination over results.
  • Give kids opportunities to grow in confidence through tasks, chores, and by making them responsible for some family activities or events.

Tween and Teen Confidence Slumps

Teens often compare themselves to others, which may lead to confidence slumps. At this age, bodies are changing rapidly. Teens often create a mental picture of what the ideal person should look like, and this is heavily influenced by unrealistic media. Not surprisingly, teens may struggle with self-image and feeling as if they don’t fit in with peers.

Social media can add to confidence slumps by highlighting only the best in people’s lives. This can quickly lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointment.

Confidence slumps may lead teens to become more closed off, fall behind in school, or even lash out at themselves or others. As parents, it’s important not to be reactive, but rather, proactive in these situations. Help your teen identify what is driving negative feelings and make a plan to limit its influence.

Recognizing Tween and Teen Confidence Slumps

Sometimes trying to get information out of pre-teens and teens can be like pulling teeth, but here are signs that speak for themselves:

  • Excessive sarcasm.
  • Secluding themselves.
  • Excessive screen time.
  • Quitting at the first sign of struggle.
  • Celebrating failures.

Helping Tweens and Teens Build Self-Confidence

Connecting with a teen on an emotional level can be difficult because they crave both independence and structure at the same time. Although these two things may seem contradictory, there’s a balance. Here are some ideas from the Department of Education to help build a child’s confidence and find that balance:

  • Encourage your child to pursue their interests in sports, plays, or with school clubs.
  • Empower your child with leadership opportunities like organizing the grocery list or assigning family chores.
  • Exercise with your child.
  • Help them when they come across difficulty, but don’t solve problems for them.
  • Help them recognize the growth that comes after a loss.
  • Help them learn that asking for help is not a weakness.
  • Be a role model, but allow them to be different (2+2 = 4 and so does 3+1).
  • Have patience. They’re still developing.

You want the best for your child and seeing them struggle with confidence can be heartbreaking. If you notice changes in mood and personality that are sudden or extreme, your pediatrician should be your first call. Many mental health screenings can help separate typical developmental struggles from issues that require intervention.

Reviewed on January 27, 2022 by: Joseph Hershkop, M.D.
Joseph Hershkop, M.D.
Board-certified Pediatrician

Dr. Hershkop is a former New Yorker who really enjoys working with children from birth to age three, and is passionate about asthma, ADHD care, and dermatology. Languages: English, Hebrew

Saratoga Springs Office
Full Bio

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