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Activities to Build Self Esteem in Depressed Teens

author image Michelle Bolyn
Michelle Bolyn is a licensed mental health professional and has worked since 2006 as a therapist. Bolyn has been writing mental health, wedding-related and relationship focused articles since 2007. She is published on Suite101.com and Examiner.com. Bolyn received her master's degree in social work from New York University.
Activities to Build Self Esteem in Depressed Teens
A father hugging his smiling teenage daughter. Photo Credit Todd Warnock/Photodisc/Getty Images


Teens who suffer from depression are overwhelming sad, have trouble sleeping, feel hopeless and worthless, gain or lose significant amounts of weight, have difficulty concentrating and have trouble maintaining healthy relationships. Many teens who are depressed also have a low self-esteem. There are many activities that teachers, therapists and parents can use to improve confidence and self-esteem among adolescents.

Compliments and Praise

If you’re leading a group of teens in a therapeutic environment or working with teens in your classroom, you can improve their self-esteem by encouraging them to give each other compliments, according to Education World. Split the teens up into groups of four or five and tell them that their task is to give each person in their group a compliment. Ask that the teens focus on something that’s behavioral and not linked to appearance. Give examples, so the teens know what you are asking.

Get Active

Teens who suffer from depression often have low energy, which can lead to weight gain. When a teen doesn’t feel good about her appearance, she’ll probably become more depressed and her self-esteem will continue to plummet. If you want to encourage confidence among teens, get them active. Team sports are a great way for adolescents to build confidence and improve their self-esteem. If the teen doesn’t want to play a team sport or doesn’t have athletic talents, offer other suggestions of ways she can get exercise. She could walk with friends after school, go bowling on the weekends, spend time in the park when it’s nice outside and ride her bike to school.

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Make Affirming Lists

The National Mental Health Information Center recommends that teens make positive lists and read them often to make themselves feel better. As a group leader or teacher, you could pick one topic each day for a week and ask the teens to list things related to the topic. For instance, you could ask the teens to list five strengths, 10 things that make them laugh, four ways they’ve helped someone in the past month and 10 accomplishments they’ve had in their lifetime. Talk to the teens about putting these lists somewhere they’ll see them often such as next to their bed or taped to the bathroom mirror.

Confidence-Boosting Calendar

Another activity the National Mental Health Information Center recommends is making a confidence-boosting calendar. When you do things that you enjoy, your happiness and confidence increase. Teens should write one thing that makes them happy, smile or laugh next to each day. A teen’s calendar might include walking his dog, playing soccer with friends, going to the movies with his girlfriend and reading for 20 minutes. After the teen completes his calendar, he should make an effort to do the things listed each day.

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