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Building Your Child's Self-esteem

October 31, 2018

As a parent, it can sometimes difficult to know what your child needs. One thing you can do to promote your child’s wellbeing is promote good self-esteem.

While teenagers are infamous for insecurities, therapist Jaclyn Scanlan, LISW-S, says she sees awareness of self-esteem in children as young as six or seven.

“It does start pretty young where kids will start to see differences in their body shape, ability with sports, or other characteristics,” Scanlan says. “They may not be seeing themselves negatively, but they do notice that difference.”

Children who do have low self-esteem tend to withdraw. They may become frustrated more easily and find it hard to stay motivated. If you’re noticing your child comparing his or herself to others, Scanlan says that’s the time to start encouraging self-acceptance.

Be a role model. You set an example for your child in everything you do, and the way you treat yourself is no different. It’s important not to talk negatively about yourself, but also make sure they see that you’re not perfect. If they see you handle mistakes you’ve made in a positive way, they’ll gain an understanding that, while they might make mistakes too, they have the resilience to handle any situation.

Review the errors. Just like helping your child with math homework, when something goes wrong, work with them to understand what happened and how they can fix it the next time. Taking a constructive and helpful approach is essential to helping your child understand their strengths and ways they can improve. However, Scanlan stresses that it’s especially important to give children agency when it comes to solving problems.

“If they’re struggling in school, encourage the kid to reach out to the teacher instead of doing it for them,” Scanlan says. “If they feel empowered to take control when they start to make improvements, it is their true accomplishment.”

Ease the school stress. Whether it is conversations with peers, participating in sports, or navigating homework, school presents many situations that can be rewarding but also challenging. Scanlan encourages parents to find things their kids are passionate about outside of a school setting if school is a stressor for your child so that they have other places where they can feel good and confident.

Finally, Scanlan cautions parents that keeping your child grounded is also important.

“There is false self-esteem we can give kids as well,” Scanlan says. “That bubble is going to pop, and it’s going to be hard when it does. Being real with our kids is one of the best things we can do.”