Building self-esteem in school-age children and teenagers
Part 3 of 4
Build Healthy Self-Esteem in Your School-Age Child
Children between the ages of 6 and 12 often seem "trouble-free." They can do more for themselves than preschoolers and they haven't begun the trials and traumas of adolescence. But your child depends on you to help him through the tough times.
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Friends and peers are extremely important to school-age children, but your child still needs you. He needs your praise, your kindness and your willingness to talk and listen. He also needs to experience success. Children need to know that sad, mad, hurt or afraid are okay feelings. They also need to learn the appropriate ways to express feelings. Let your child know that adults do make mistakes; this will help him to maintain his own self-confidence when he fails at something. If your child has trouble making friends, he may need help. Resolve to boost your child's self-esteem if he thinks that no one likes him, that another is better than he is or that he doesn't fit in. Here are some ideas to help you boost your child's self-esteem:
- Set a good example; respect and trust others.
- Help your child succeed at something that he wants to achieve.
- Give genuine praise. Your child knows when it's deserved.
- Give him opportunities and encouragement to learn new skills and to try new activities.
- Give him meaningful responsibilities and reward him for contributing to the family.
- Offer kind words when you know he's had a bad experience.
- Help him feel good. Try a hug, a handshake, a smile, a whistle, a pat on the back, a hand on the shoulder.
- Comfort him when he feels low. "You're a neat guy." "I love you." "I like the way you smile." "I like you for being you."
- Don't put him down or embarrass him.
- Don't set rigid expectations and place demands on a child's creativity when you're trying to build a sense of success.
- Teach your child his cultural and ethnic history to instill pride and a sense of history.
- State your expectations clearly, and your child will feel less anxious.
- Offer acceptable alternatives when you correct or criticize your child.
- Tell him you love him -- frequently.
Building Self-Esteem in Your Teenager
The teenage years are a time of rapid growth and development as well as a time of insecurity and instability. Your teen is wondering about his self-identity and dealing with growing pains. It is normal for your teen to be anxious about friends, personal appearances, dating, grades and being cool. He may be sensitive to being ignored, to putdowns, or to being unpopular or not fitting in. Looking good and being cool help him feel confident. Teens want to be liked and respected just like preschoolers. They want to know they're okay.
Positive experiences will give your child a strong, healthy sense of self. Teens feel good and capable when they do what they should do and want to do it, too. This healthy self-esteem helps them to cope with an unpredictable future.
Your teenager may be his own worst enemy. Is your child critical of himself? Does he jump into situations where there is little hope for success? Does he allow peers to persuade him to do things that he doesn't want to do? Does he apply past experiences to current situations when he is under pressure to be part of a group?
Teenagers can be happy and on top of the world one minute and in the dumps the next. When they feel loveable and competent, they have high self-esteem and believe they can face life's little problems. But their self-esteem can be very, very fickle. One minute they have it; the next it's gone. It's perfectly normal for your teen's self-esteem to change throughout the day.
But there are some things parents and other adults can do to help your child keep his self-esteem level on a somewhat even keel. These include:
- Concentrate on recent accomplishments.
- Praise your teen when he has been successful.
- Permit your child to take time to be alone with his thoughts and feelings.
- Help him to accept his faults. Encourage him to go after his goals, but don't expect perfection or set standards that he can't achieve.
- Admire: respect and appreciate the uniqueness of your teenager.
- Help your child feel good about his appearance. If a new haircut or trip to the dermatologist will help him feel better, try it.
- Keep a sense of humor.
- Accept your teen's growing independence and privacy.
- Set an example with your own responsible behavior.
- Give freedom but keep limits that protect your teenager. Explain the reasons for your expectations and limits.
- Be honest. Admit mistakes; we all make them.
- Stand firm in your beliefs and values.
- Be a good listener. Be open and "real" when you talk with your child. Communicate your feelings and allow your teen to voice his feelings.
- Support your child's goals. Help him find a realistic way to implement his plans. Your guidance, support and praise can help build a healthy self-esteem in your teenager. Avoid excessive criticism, punishment and expressions of disappointment and disgust with yourself as well as with your child. You should exhibit your own positive self-esteem. This will provide a good role model for your child.