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4 Ways to Diminish Self-Consciousness in Preteens

Do you remember being in 4th, 5th or 6th grade? Do you remember what it was like to feel insecure about your looks? You thought everyone noticed all your imperfections. Your body was beginning to change and maybe didn’t quite grow proportionally. If you were like most, you felt a bit self conscience about your looks. Can you go back that long ago in your mind? Do you remember? I can.

As a 10-year-old, I was the poster boy for Mr. Cool (not). I was super skinny, had a huge head, flamingo-like legs, thick tinted glasses, braces and a hairdo that resembled a dirty mop. To say that I was self-conscience about my looks was an understatement.

What about the preteens you lead? How do you think they feel about their looks? Many think the super good looking teen stars in the music, TV and movie industry are the norm. Often comparing themselves these stars, who are the top 1% good looking teens in the U.S., they put a lot of pressure on themselves to measure up. We’ve read the statistics about eating disorders starting in the preteen years. Bottom line is that “good looks” is a topic preteens deal with every day.

And with back to school just around the corner, it’s on their minds a lot. They want to look cool for back 2 school! Hey, I just rhymed :)

So, how do you help preteens be more confident about their appearance?

First, give affirmation. Preteens need positive feedback about themselves. They need to hear other people say good things about them. They need to know they’re unique. You have the power to brighten their day with a compliment. Point out the good they posses. Look for their hidden talents and encourage them to grow. Tell them the amazing things God can do through them. When preteens are built up they feel more confident about themselves and don’t look to appearance as much to feel important about themselves.

Second, focus on character. Help preteens place a high value on character rather than appearance. Praise good decision-making. Give compliments based on integrity. But don’t overdo it. You don’t want so much attention on good character that they feel like a loser when they mess up. Point out that developing good character is a lifelong process, with ups and downs along the way.

Third, talk about your struggle with appearance. Talk about your struggles as a preteen. How did you feel about your appearance? What have you learned looking back now? Be real and authentic. It breaks down the walls. They’ll listen more attentively to what you have to say.

Fourth, help to accept themselves as-is. Help them to see that God made them just the way they are on purpose. God, like an artist painting a beautiful masterpiece, made them just the way they are. Keep that truth in front of them. Point out that no one is perfect. Even the super stars are self-conscience about their looks. That’s why so many have plastic surgery. Help them to appreciate their appearance rather than comparing themselves to others.

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Over twelve years ago Nick Diliberto lauched a preteen ministry with a handful of volunteers and about 25 kids. Over the years it grew to over 100 kids and has impacted hundreds of young people's lives. Nick is the driving force behind PreteenMinistry.net, Children's Director at La Jolla Presbyterian Church, workshop speaker and author of an ongoing preteen column in Children's Ministry Magazine.