Healthy self-esteem is an important part of overall well-being. Low self-esteem makes it difficult to flourish and can prevent a person from developing fulfilling relationships or achieving his or her full potential.
People begin building self-esteem in childhood and continue to develop it throughout their lives. It can be affected by our circumstances, the degree of which will depend on our developmental phase. For instance, peers play a role in helping us develop self-esteem, but this tends to be mostly the case during adolescence. Our parents also play a role, especially during childhood.
It’s possible to repair poor self-esteem at any point during life. It can be done independently, with the support of family at home, or in therapy.
Therapists are especially adept at recognizing behaviors that damage self-esteem and providing tools to help people of all ages boost self-esteem, but doing so takes work. According to Elizabeth Cush, MA, LCPC, It takes time to learn new things. Practice and patience are needed when working on improving self-esteem.”
Developing self-compassion can also help to boost self-esteem. This can be done by showing yourself kindness and forgiving mistakes, recognizing that you, nor anyone else, is perfect, and being mindful of emotions without allowing them to consume you.
How Can Parents Help Children Develop Self-Esteem?
Genuine self-esteem comes from proactively coping with life’s challenges instead of avoiding them. Parents can help their children take this approach and develop high self-esteem, happiness, and well-being.
One of the best ways for parents to help children take an approach to life that builds self-esteem is to recognize that all children are different. What they do for one child might not be appropriate for another and each child’s developmental stage and particular temperament and personality should be taken into consideration. It’s also true that a child’s gender plays a role in his or her development of self-esteem.
Research shows self-esteem peeks for girls around nine years of age and then plummets. One study by the Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) revealed that 47% of girls between the ages of 11 and 14 refuse to take part in activities that show off their bodies in any way, such as swimming or performing in a school play.
It’s also important to recognize when your child transitions to looking to his or her peers more than to you for direction and support. This can also be a time when children tend to misinterpret messages from their parents or choose to ignore them. Your child might make decisions that deviate from what you’d advised, but this isn’t a bad thing. Even the mistakes made during this phase of life can help build self-esteem if handled properly. But make sure you are aware of the things your child is exposed to during this crucial time. If your child’s peers are not supportive or actively bully your child, intervention is needed.
This is especially true in our modern age of social media, where children can interact with one another constantly and in ways that aren’t necessarily witnessed by adults in their lives. Social media is an important part of the lives of young people and there is growing evidence that this could be detrimental to mental health, including self-esteem.
Many mental health advocates have called for checks and balances in social media and young people tend to agree it would be helpful. According to one report, seven in 10 (71%) young people surveyed support the introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media and 68% want social media platforms to highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated.
Unconditional Adulation and Support Hurt Self-Esteem
As important as it is for parents to let their children know the will support them and love them, it’s equally important to help children develop the skills needed to deal with external criticism. An unconditionally favorable parenting style doesn’t prepare children to deal with real-world demands. Protecting your child from challenges doesn’t help them get over the initial fear they feel when faced with something new. Challenging and encouraging your child to work through hesitation and anxiety lays the groundwork for high self-esteem.
Though you might be tempted to endlessly comfort and reassure your child and protect his or her ego, it’s not going to help your child’s self-esteem in the long run. Having an honest awareness of your child’s shortcomings, while it might seem uncomfortable or “not nice” initially, tends to boost self-esteem.
Nothing is more important to helping your child develop high self-esteem than making sure he or she feels secure within the family, but this doesn’t mean constant hovering or protection. Instead, children should be encouraged to develop a self-determining individuality and be capable of favorable self-evaluation. To do this, parents should:
– Adopt an optimistic outlook that demonstrates a “can do” attitude for kids
– Focus on acceptance (make sure children know they are important in their family), expectations (set reasonable demands for the child to work hard and optimize their opportunities for success), and autonomy (offer children respect for who they are as individuals) to optimize a child’s development of self-esteem
– Shift control gradually to the child while respecting the child’s development and need for self- and environmental control
Developing Your Own Self-Esteem Helps Your Child
Unless a parent has dealt with his or her own self-esteem issues, it can be difficult to help kids learn to think positively about themselves. This is why it’s so important for parents to get the support they need to overcome their issues with self-esteem.
The degree to which parents have resolved their own issues of personal self-esteem have more influence on their children than anything they could teach them verbally. Kids are influenced by the actions of their parents and most imitate what they observe. This makes it essential for parents to demonstrate problem-solving approaches that give kids the courage to tackle life’s challenges.
Parents should also understand their attitudes toward themselves has a powerful effect on their child’s self-regard, no matter how young they are. And it’s not something parents can “fake until they make.” Kids can sense when a parent is pretending to have a positive self-image and the child will develop a tendency to pretend they are something they’re not, which is the opposite of developing an “internally anchored” image of self.
It’s possible to help your child develop high self-esteem, but the process can be challenging. The more prepared you are and the more you’ve done to face your issues, the better your odds of preparing your child to lead a fulfilling life.