Do you want to help your adolescents improve their self-esteem? Provide them with opportunities to serve people they don’t know.
While any sort of person-to-person service, including that done for family members and friends, has a positive effect on young people, a recent study shows that helping and serving less fortunate people who are previously unknown can increase self-esteem in youth for as long as a year after the service is provided.
BYU School of Family Life professor Laura Padilla-Walker and her former student Xinuan Fu, of China’s Central University, say that their research “helps us to understand that young people who help those with whom they do not have a relationship report feeling better about themselves over time. Given the importance of self-esteem during the teen years, this is an important finding. It suggests there might be something about helping strangers that impacts one’s moral identity or perceptions of self in a more significant way than helping friends or family members, although these are beneficial behaviors as well.” (1)
In these days when our youth are subjected to constant negativity from so many media sources, and when bullying is on the rise, we can immunize young people against poor self-esteem by allowing them to serve others.
Says Padilla-Walker, “It is best if teens can directly see the benefit of their help on others. This can increase gratitude in young people and help them to focus less on their own problems. It is also a way to help them meet new friends or spend time with family. A family tradition of helping those who are less fortunate throughout the year … is a great way to instill in children a
desire to serve and a greater sense of self-worth.” (2)
Providing service to our fellowman also allows us to serve our Savior Jesus Christ, who said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Serving others is a total win-win!
– Kathi Irving
1 Brigham Young University. “Teens who help strangers have more confidence: Get your kids involved in service to
strangers in this season of giving, researchers suggest.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 December 2017.