Self-esteem: How can parents help?
Be a role model
If your kids talk negatively about themselves, try examining your own behaviour; do you find yourself doing the same thing? The way you talk has a big influence on your children, and it’s natural that they might mimic you. Next time you’re tempted to berate yourself or call yourself names, don’t. You and your children will all benefit.
The power of positive thinking
When your children are feeling very negative about themselves, try suggesting they use positive statements like, “I haven’t been able to do this yet, but if I keep trying it will get easier.” Remind them of some of the things they do well and that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but the important thing is not to give up. Teach them to be aware when they’re getting caught up in negative thinking. For example if one subject in school is a challenge for them or they have one bad haircut, it doesn’t mean their whole life is a disaster.
Don’t forget that one reason kids say negative things about themselves is to see what reaction they’ll get. They’re hoping that you’ll express your love and support, despite the occasional failures that loom so large to them. Physical contact is important too. Hugs have great power to communicate your love and comfort, often better than words. Make sure they know they’re not alone; that everyone occasionally falls short or feels badly about themselves, and that you’re there to help. Also, if you see your kids improving in an area where they have struggled, even if the improvement is small, point it out and congratulate them on the effort they’ve made.
Remind your child to be compassionate towards themselves; that forgiving themselves for an error in judgment or a bad test result is okay. After all, to err is human. Recent studies show that those who exercise self-compassion go ‘back to the drawing board’ more willingly and with more optimism. They are also more likely to take responsibility for their actions and errors, an important life lesson that contributes to a better self-image.