What Is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is about self value; how we see ourselves – our personal achievements and our sense of worth. It is important because it helps the individual feel proud of who they are, and what they do.
It helps children develop respect for themselves, which in turn leads to being respected by others.
What Are The Causes and Consequences Of Low Self-Esteem ?
Children with low self-esteem:
- Have a negative image of themselves and may feel bad, ugly, unlikeable or stupid.
- Lack confidence.
- Find it hard to make and keep friendships, and may feel victimised by others.
- Tend to avoid new things and find change hard.
- Can’t deal well with failure.
- Tend to put themselves down and might say things like “I’m stupid” or “I can’t do that” (before they have tried).
- Are not proud of what they achieve and always think they could have done better.
- Are constantly comparing themselves to their peers in a negative way.
Children and young people with low self-esteem are more at risk of developing anxiety, depression, self-harming and other mental health problems as they grow up, and will often find the ups and downs of life in general harder to get through. Moreover, it can be extremely difficult for a teenager with low self-esteem to cope with pressure from peers, school or society.
How To Improve Your Child's Self-Esteem
- Show them lots of love. A child needs to know you love them no matter how they behave.
- Be positive about them as a person and tell them what makes them special to you.
- Set an example of a positive attitude when faced with challenges.
- Encourage them to try new challenges themselves, and celebrate them for it. Make the steps small at first, then increase the challenges.
- Try and give praise wherever possible. As well as verbal praise, giving small rewards to highlight accomplishments.
- Focus on strengths rather than areas where they have not done so well.
- Reassure them it’s okay to make mistakes and that it’s all part of growing up. If you make a mistake, admit it and say sorry, to show them that getting it wrong is not the end of the world and happens to everyone.
- Keep instructions positive.
- Avoid being too critical and don’t put them down. Give criticism calmly, in a constructive way – focusing on the behaviour you want to change instead of criticising the person.
- Acknowledge their feelings, and help them to express them in words. For example, encourage them to say, “I’m upset because…” or “I feel happy when…”.
- Use creativity to help your child express themselves – art, drama, music.
- Help your child discover and develop their talents through clubs, groups and activities – your child may gain new skills to be proud of.
Where Can I Find More Information?
Other Management Strategies
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a process that helps you to identify how the way you think interacts with how you feel, and what you do as a result. It is an ideal approach to tackling low self-esteem, as it provides a framework for understanding; 1. How it developed. 2. What keeps it going.
CBT focuses on thoughts, beliefs and opinions about oneself (which are likely to be self-critical, self-blaming and self-doubting), and also provides a practical approach for changing them by changing behaviour.
Many children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), have self-esteem vulnerabilities. These are often due to the consequences of their behaviour, and also as adolescents, their realization of the mismatch between actual achievement and potential. CBT can teach skills that address these issues.