Whether young or old, self-esteem is something we all would like a bit more of. I have listened as parents ask the question: “What can I do to help.” The answer is simple. Let’s start a dialogue on this most important subject.
Self esteem means to have respect for yourself and your abilities. This seems easy enough until self-doubt rears its ugly head. Maybe you tell little Suzie everyday that you love her but when you say “I love it when you get A’s on tests” that takes on a whole new meaning. You are placing a condition on your love.
Children with unhealthy self-esteem have problems dealing with simple life tasks. They may become depressed or anxious at the thought of a new challenge. Those that think poorly of themselves may have a hard time thinking of problems to solutions. These children are also self-critical. “I can’t” may become their favorite dictum.
Children with low self-esteem may see temporary set backs as permanent. This can cause stress, mental illness and difficulty solving different problems they encounter.
Children with healthy self-esteem enjoy interacting with others as well as enjoying individual pursuits. When challenges arise, they work to find solutions without belittling themselves. For example, rather than saying “I can’t do this, ” a child with healthy self-esteem says “I can’t do this right now” or “I don’t understand this.” They know their strengths and weaknesses and accept them.
How Parents Can Help
Children are sensitive to parents’ and others words. Show your child encouragement when it is most unexpected. Tell your child you are proud of something especially if they put effort forth. Be wary of encouraging outcome. Telling your child, “Well next time you will work harder and get an A on the Math test.” Instead, try “Well you did not make an A but I am really proud of the effort you put into it.” Reward effort and completion and not the outcome.
Create a safe, loving environment. A child who is exposed to an environment wherein the parents fight, may feel they have no control over their environment and may become depressed. Also, watch for signs of abuse from others, problems in school, bullying from peers and other factors that may affect children’s self esteem. Encourage your child to come and talk to you or a trusted adult about solving problems that are too big to solve themselves.
Give accurate feedback. Comments like, “You are always so dramatic!” will make children feel like they have no control over their outbursts. A better statement is, “I can see that you are upset with your brother, but it was nice that you were able to talk about it instead of yelling or screaming.” This way, the child’s feelings were acknowledged, the right choice was encouraged and thus the child will feel encouraged to make this choice again.
Finding Professional Help
If you suspect your child has low self-esteem, consider finding professional help. Child and family therapists can help identify strategies and coping mechanisms to assist with problems at home and at school in ways that help the child feel better about themselves.
Therapists can help children to view the world more realistically and help with problem solving.
Parents as role-models can assist their child by showing responsibility and pride in who they are which is the best gift parents can give their child.