Low self-esteem is one of the most common presenting issues we see in the children and young people who come through our counselling service.
These children may appear to have a low opinion of themselves, as we explain in our blog on self-esteem. They may also lack confidence, seeing themselves or their achievements in a negative light, and therefore shy away from people and experiences. This can leave them feeling lonely and isolated, which can lead to their symptoms getting worse.
Low self-esteem is often linked to other mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, and treating it early may help things from spiralling out of control for your child.
Here we share 5 ways to incorporate positive changes into everyday life to improve your child’s low self-esteem.
Be a role model
Before you attempt to change your child’s thoughts or behaviour, firstly reflect on your own.
Are you asking them to behave or think in a way that you don’t do yourself?
Parents have an enormous influence on their children. By displaying positive behaviours, reactions and self-worth, your child can be influenced over time into changing their own mindset.
Examples of simple ways to be a great parent role model include being aware of the appropriateness of your language and tone of voice, and learning to forgive, according to Parents In Sport.
Once you’re confident that you’re practicing what you preach, you can take the next steps towards improving their self-esteem.
Cultivate the right environment
Creating an environment where your children feel comfortable being open and honest with you about their feelings is an important part of improving their self-esteem.
Children with low self-esteem can also often have low self-worth according to Young Minds. Being an attentive listener is a powerful way of showing that you care about what your children think and feel. Unless they ask you to, don’t attempt to fix their problem – often the act of talking lifts a heavy weight from their shoulders.
In order to create this open environment, hone your listening skills by:
- maintaining eye contact while they talk
- giving them time and space to say what they need to say, without interruptions
- acknowledging what they’re saying without a negative response, for example saying they’re silly for thinking that
- consistently letting them know you love them and are there for them no matter what
Change their mindset
The Growth Mindset is a research-backed theory by Carol Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.
The research places children into two categories, the first of which has a fixed mindset. These children believe that their basic abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed. If they fail at something, they believe they’re simply not capable of it.
In comparison, those with a growth mindset believe their abilities and intelligence can be developed with effort, learning, and persistence. They generally react to setbacks positively – achievements (or lack of) are all part of the journey for them.
To utilise this in everyday life, try emphasising the effort your children make rather than the “win”. By doing this, you are teaching your children that it’s their hard work and perseverance which is important, ultimately equipping them with resilience to cope with any future setbacks.
This can also be adopted if your child has a poor self-image, by consciously moving your praise away from their physical qualities – “you look smart / pretty today” – towards valuing their behaviour and personal attributes instead.
Children with low self-esteem can often feel they’re never good enough. They may avoid new things for fear of failure, leaving themselves feeling lonely and isolated.
By challenging their negative beliefs – questioning and asking for evidence of their opinions – you can demonstrate that their fears are unfounded and that things are not as negative as they perceive. Celebrate each small success along the way.
A positive way of doing this is to spend time together performing activities to help them cope with adversity. For example, dedicate time at the end of each day to write down three good things that have happened, big or small. This is particularly good for sending them to bed in a positive mindset, helping them get a good night’s sleep.
Involve them in the community
Getting them involved in voluntary work and making a difference to someone in need is a highly rewarding way of building their self-image, according to Young Minds. You can always do this together if they are too young alone.
Follow our earlier recommendation and spend time remembering the things they achieved and the difference they made to ensure they don’t default to thinking they didn’t do it well enough.
If you’re unsure where to start this safely in your community, you can find volunteering opportunities you and your child can join in with through the government website.
We hope that this advice has been useful in supporting your children’s self-esteem. If you feel your child needs extra support, they may benefit from counselling to understand and work through the underlying issues of their thoughts. Contact us to find out more and book their assessment.