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How teachers can help boost teens’ self-esteem during lockdown

Teacher with pupils in a classroom

With the UK back in lockdown, young people are likely to be spending more time online again.

While many teenagers’ online experiences will be positive, the first lockdown earlier this year was marked by an influx of unrealistic content encouraging people to use the time to ‘better’ themselves.

This kind of messaging can easily affect teenagers’ perception of body-image and cause their self-esteem to drop, at a time when they may already be feeling isolated and anxious.

How can teachers help? The Dove Self-Esteem Confident Me workshops are designed to teach 11 to 14-year-olds strategies to protect and build self-confidence – and include everything you need to run the five sessions yourself.

Here are a few tips for boosting self-esteem in your classroom:

Recognise unrealistic appearance ideals

During the first lockdown, many influential social media accounts shared posts about maintaining the ‘perfect’ weight and appearance. This added a new layer of pressure for teens who were already feeling stressed and alienated.

Encourage your students to think about why lockdown might have increased the number of these posts – and to recognise the impact of these appearance demands. This will help students learn to resist such messages and recognise their own unique qualities.

Session one of the Confident Me workshops will help your students develop strategies to challenge appearance ideals and build body confidence.

Become media savvy

Images on social media aren’t always quite what they seem. During lockdown, teenagers may be exposed to adverts claiming ‘miracle’ virus cures, or the glamorisation of weight-loss pills and shakes to maintain that ‘perfect’ body.

Explain how images are often heavily edited and marketed in a certain way to attract consumers. Talk about the importance of critical thinking, and help your students understand that it’s pointless to strive to become the images we see on social media – as very often, these images are unrealistic.

Session two of the Confident Me workshops will teach your students to be critical media consumers.

Encourage positive self-worth

It’s easy to compare ourselves to others in a negative way. This kind of behaviour is particularly common online during lockdown, with some people posting regularly about how they are ‘bettering’ themselves – whether through losing weight or by getting a six-pack.

Such negative body talk and unhelpful comparisons can damage self-esteem and cause a lack of self-belief.

Explain that there’s no right way to do lockdown, and that we should do whatever we feel comfortable with – now and in the future. If that involves streaming Netflix over a hot chocolate, it should be celebrated as something we enjoy rather than shunned.

Positive talk about our self-worth is important. Encourage your students to introduce uplifting compliments and comments into their lives, focusing on their talents and unique qualities.

Session four of the Confident Me workshops will help your students to see the unhelpful implications of negative body talk, and develop techniques to redirect or reframe such conversations for a more positive impact on body confidence.

(If you don’t have time to run all five sessions, the Dove Self-Esteem project also offers a single session workshop which covers all of the key points. Download it for free here)

Image: Monkey Business/

The free Confident Me workshops are all about teaching 11 to 14-year-olds strategies to protect and build self-confidence – in themselves and others.

Get your pack now: it includes all the resources you need to run the sessions.