Promoting Your School-aged Child’s Self-Esteem

Promoting Your School-aged Child’s Self-Esteem

As a child and family therapist, parents regularly ask me how they can boost their child’s self-esteem. We all want the very best for our children including a sense that they are happy and confident. But how can we go about promoting a healthy self-esteem in our children in the day-to-day?

First of all, self-esteem can be defined as the way we look at ourselves. A healthy self-esteem is the sense that one is good, capable and secure. It is not a sense of entitlement or superiority(this is a different concept all together).The primary way in which we can build our child’s self-esteem is through loving them unconditionally. This is by far, the most foundational element for a child’s emotional health. A child who feels worthy can have the confidence to tackle challenges that come along in life. Conveying this with your words and actions will truly make this a felt experience for your child. The development of self-esteem in the school years is related to a history of being accepted and supported by parents or other primary caregivers.

Secondly, in order for self-esteem to flourish, a child does need to experience some successes or a sense of achievement. Excelling in a school subject, learning a new skill or thriving in a sport are all examples of real accomplishments school-aged children can experience. Like adults, a child will evaluate herself by what she does, which in turn, informs her understanding of who she is. So finding ways for your child to excel at something (i.e. being a friend, enjoying ballet classes, reading to a Kindergartener) will help pave the way to a healthy self-esteem.This does NOT mean that we need to push our child beyond her capabilities but rather, set the stage for her to experience reaching her own goal and experiencing a sense of being capable. If your child is struggling, you will want to consider how to create situations where they are set up for success to get the ball rolling.

To summarize:

  • Accept and appreciate your child just the way she is. This will her accept and appreciate herself too.
  • Create expectations that are developmentally appropriate so that your child can feel competent in her efforts. This will help positively influence her motivation to get after the doing!
  • Celebrate and encourage her efforts (i.e. "you worked really hard on that!"), rather than giving your child empty praise (i.e. ‘you are so smart!’). The key is to provide opportunities for realistic self-appraisal.
  • Provide your child with some scaffolding for the skills on which she is working and find ways to connect with her learning experiences at home.

If you have concerns about your child’s self-esteem or want to discuss any parenting challenges in detail, please call our office at 778-294-8732 to book an appointment with one of our child and family counsellors/psychologists.

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