Every child goes through a period where they question themselves and worry if they are worth anything to others. This down time, when they are unsure of their own worth, is critical in their development.
Every child goes through a period where they question themselves and worry if they are worth anything to others. This down time, when they are unsure of their own worth, is critical in their development. Unknowingly, as a parent, you could be putting this precious balance of self-esteem in jeopardy.
Here are three things to be cautious of when dealing with your child and their self-esteem:
Validate feelings and emotions
Every child, every human being, is full of emotions. We each get happy, sad, upset, scared, angry, or hurt over a vast variety of experiences. As adults, we have a much broader understanding of events that can happen during a lifetime. Children do not have the same depth of life experience. Children experience similar events in very different ways. Many times, without even realizing it is happening, you might brush off a child’s fears, worries, or anxieties.
When your child comes to you with a concern that seems trivial, it is important to take a moment and put yourself in your child’s place. Try to understand it at their level and with their amount of life experience. Missing a party may feel like a non-event to a parent, but your child might feel like they missed the event of the century.
Allow your child to express their own feelings and thoughts in order to learn more about them and how they relate to the world. This helps them to build their sense of self and their own confidence.
Don't use hurtful words
Using hurtful words can be very damaging. Even if you think your child's issue is trivial, it is important to be cautious about what you say. Using language that brushes off a child’s concerns or even their interests can become very detrimental to their self-esteem.
Give them your full attention
A child may not understand that you are busy. They only understand that you didn’t have enough time for them. Instead, you need to re-focus the conversation. Let them know that you are interested and arrange a time when you can talk to them and focus on their concerns, accomplishments, or ideas.
Give them the support they need
Children often feel they are not getting enough support. As a parent, you feel like you are there all the time, at every game, every performance, doing homework, answering questions. There might be times when your child simply feels that you are not really vested in being there with them.
In order to build self-esteem, it’s important to let your child know that they have a value of their own. Communicate to them that you value them and not what they are accomplishing. Spending time with each child individually, on just an ordinary day, will do more for their confidence than being there for every performance or game. It’s just as important to be there for the everyday challenges as it is for major events.
Raising children and helping them grow into confident adults is one of the biggest challenges every parent faces. The key to helping them gain healthy self-esteem may be in remembering to avoid the unintentional little things that can damage it. Take time to focus on your children individually, be cautions when talking about their emotions, and be sure to validate them as individuals. Following these simple steps will let them know that they are valued by their parents, and they will, in turn, value themselves.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.