By Dr. Jan Hittelman
A child’s self-esteem has a significant impact on their overall well-being and success in life. The process by which our self-esteem develops is complex and is influenced by many factors. Children who have healthy self-esteem typically exhibit several of the following characteristics: Willingness to try new things, taking pride in accomplishments, assuming responsibility, having good frustration tolerance, having the capacity to resist peer pressure, demonstrating effective problem-solving skills, and feeling loved.
As parents there’s a lot that we can do to help foster self-esteem in our children. Effective strategies include:
• Provide positive feedback: We live in a negativistic world, which impacts everyone’s self-esteem. No one’s feedback is more important to our children than ours. Make an effort to let your child know when he/she is doing something right.
• Encourage your child to make positive self-statements: As human beings we are talking to ourselves all the time. When our “self-talk” is primarily negative and self-critical, in addition to poor self-esteem, we are at-risk for depression, anxiety, and a host of other problems. Encourage your child to verbalize their self-perceptions and challenge them when they are unfairly negative. Offer more accurate positive statements that over time they will learn to internalize.
• Create opportunities for success: Healthy self-esteem is built upon successful experiences. Encourage your child to participate in activities that nurture their strengths and/or interests.
• Express your love: Don’t just think it, say it! Be genuine and express your positive feelings for your child both verbally and non-verbally (e.g., give a hug, smile, pat on the back, etc.). Create a safe and nurturing home. Help your child feel special and appreciated.