At East Portland Pediatric Clinic, we know that self-esteem plays a vital role in the development of our patients. That’s because a child’s self-esteem impacts them socially, emotionally, and behaviorally – from how they handle social relationships and peer pressure to challenges and setbacks. Healthy or positive self-esteem is also an important factor for good mental health.
But what is self-esteem? In a nutshell, it’s the way we perceive ourselves. Our self-esteem is shaped by our thoughts and feelings as well as the perceptions and expectations of the important people in our lives. This includes how we’re treated by parents, friends, and more. The more how we see ourselves (our perceived sense of self) matches who we want to be (our ideal self), the higher and healthier our self-esteem is.
Wondering how you can help nurture healthy self-esteem in your child? Here are seven tips on how you can do so in a positive way every day.
Safety and belonging
One of the most fundamental ways you can help your child’s self-esteem is by making them feel safe and secure about who they are and what their future holds. Children need to feel accepted and loved, beginning with their family. As they get older, this extends to groups such as friends, schoolmates, sports teams, and more. Without this sense of acceptance, your child may feel rejected and alone.
Because self-esteem begins at home, family pride is essential and can be nurtured in a variety of ways. This includes supporting community events, exploring one’s heritage, or caring for family members. Other examples of family pride include respecting individual differences, trusting one another, showing affection for one another, and spending time together.
Trust and responsibility
Your child needs to be able to trust you. Keep your promises as much as possible, be supportive, and give your child opportunities to show their trustworthiness. Believe in them and treat them as an honest person. You should also give your child opportunities to show you (and themselves) what they can do. Let them handle certain tasks on their own, without being checked on all the time. This is a great way to show your child that you trust and have faith in them.
Confidence and independence
Encouraging confidence and independence is another great way to foster your child’s self-esteem. How? When your child learns to successfully solve problems on their own, this boosts their confidence in handling other challenges as they arise. Start by setting appropriate expectations (not too low and not too high) for your child. If you’re too overprotective, they may become too dependent on you to solve issues. Conversely, if your expectations are too high, they may feel powerless and incapable.
As your child gets older, they need (and want) to be more independent. Give them guidelines and opportunities to test themselves. Let them reflect, reason, and problem-solve. This kind of self-awareness is critical for their future growth.
Purpose and recognition
Children thrive when they can channel their energies toward a purpose or goal. Without this drive, they may become bored or resent being pushed into things by you or others.
Your child also needs positive feedback. Praise them not only for achieving a set goal, but also for their efforts. Be sure to recognize even small changes and improvements. Examples include: “I like the way you waited for your turn” or “Good work persevering.” This will reinforce healthy self-esteem and help them connect your comments to the activity involved.
Make a contribution
Find opportunities for your child to participate and contribute to their world in a meaningful way. You can help them set up a lemonade stand or volunteer at a soup kitchen. They will feel more in control when they are able to make or influence decisions on the issues that they consider important. Offer choices and decisions that are appropriate for their age and abilities while matching your values.
And last, but certainly not least, you should teach your child to be ok when they fail or make mistakes. You can do this by explaining that setbacks are normal and that’s how you learn. Offer support and constructive feedback. Use examples from your own life to show how you’ve handled a mistake and moved beyond it. This can help motivate them to try again while also mitigating any feelings of failure, guilt, or shame.
For more information on how to support a healthy sense of self-esteem in your child, contact East Portland Pediatrics today.