The pressures of modern life are affecting how our children see themselves, but there are many ways you as a parent can help boost their self–image.
In 2016, ChildLine released the results of a study that found children were struggling with the pressures of modern life: their confidence is being affected by cyber-bullying, social media and the desire to copy celebrities to achieve the ‘perfect’ image. This statistic had led to a 9% increase in children’s counselling sessions for self–esteem in 2014-15, compared to the previous year.
As a parent, it’s essential for you to know what self–esteem is,including the differences between high and low self-esteem,how you can help your child and, if they need it, what treatment options are available to them if they require support. Here’s what you need to know.
What is self-esteem?
It’s how you think about yourself. Many things can affect how a child sees themselves, such as how they’re performing at school, if they’re being bullied, if they’ve experienced some form of trauma, or how society and the media says they should look and what makes them popular.
Among other things, children with high self-esteem:
Your child may have low self-esteem if they:
How can I build my child’s self-esteem?
There are several different ways you can help your child to boost their self–esteem, but you can start by showing them how much they mean to you rather than just telling them that they are loved. They need to see how important they are to their parent, and you can do that by spending quality time with them.
One of the signs of low self-esteem in someone is they put themselves down, or compare themselves negatively to other people. That’s why you need to lead by example and take the positives from any challenges.
They may also have a fear of failing, meaning they may not take part in something more tricky in case they don’t succeed. Encourage your child to take on a challenge they may not normally do, and praise them for doing it – even if there isn’t a successful outcome. It’s their effort, rather than the result, that should be celebrated. Plus, make your child aware that it’s okay to make mistakes: it happens to everyone, and it’s how we can learn.
You can then look to set goals that your child may want to achieve. It may start small, but build the goals up as time goes on. Just make sure these are realistic and appropriate to your child.
If your child tells you how they feel, let them know you’ve heard what they’ve said, and even help them express their feelings. If they do criticize themselves, challenge them so they start saying they can do things rather than they can’t.
You may need to consider what you say and how you say it to your child, though. Try not to criticize, label or blame them, as this will give them negative messages that may affect them later on in life. Also don’t compare your child to others because it will tell them they are not good enough.
Although praise will help build your child’s self-esteem, it’s possible that over-praise can even do more harm than good. Telling them they are doing a good job means they may no longer need to push themselves, but confidence (and high self-esteem) comes from practice.
What treatment is available for low self-esteem?
If your child’s self-esteem doesn’t improve, then they may need some form of support from your doctor or another medical professional. If this is the case, go to your doctor to get advice on what you could do next or what options are available to your child.
Issues with body image can contribute to low self-esteem, which could be alleviated by therapy sessions – either by speaking to a therapist or by going on a residential program. Places such as Ignite Teen Treatment offer programs for young people to benefit from specially designed body image treatment and could be something to consider for your child if appropriate.
If you don’t know what to do, or you’re not sure how to speak to your child about any issues they may have, go to your doctor, and they will give you help. They can provide you with advice and guidance on how to start conversations about low self-esteem, and what support is available in the area to you and your family.