A healthy self-esteem is one of the most important characteristics of healthy child development. In fact, a child’s social, behavioral, and emotional health will play a crucial role in how they handle setbacks, peer pressure, and other challenges throughout life.
A positive self-esteem is also a protective factor for good mental health. Cultivating confidence contributes to positive social behavior and works as a buffer when your child is impacted by negative situations.
This is especially important as your child navigates the pandemic. COVID-19 creates so many stresses, anxieties, and uncertainties in your child’s life that having a high self-esteem is vital.
Here are some small but significant ways you can impact your child’s self-esteem in a positive way each day.
Know What Healthy Self-Esteem Looks Like
Self-esteem is basically how children see themselves—including what they think of themselves and their ability to do things. It’s also shaped by how much they feel loved, and how much support and encouragement (or criticism) they receive from important people in their life, like their parents and their teachers.
Meanwhile, being self-confident does not mean thinking that the world revolves around you or that your needs are more important than those of other people. Likewise, healthy self-esteem is not arrogance, narcissism, or entitlement. Balance out your child’s self-esteem with other important life skills such as having empathy, being kind, having good manners, being charitable, and having a sense of gratitude.
Show Unconditional Love Every Day
Knowing how much you love them gives your children a sense of security and belonging that is crucial to their view of themselves. Your unconditional love lays the groundwork for all the healthy and strong relationships they will form later in their lives.
So hug your kids when you say goodbye, snuggle together and read a book, and express your love every single day. As your kids grow, this foundation of love will help them as they continue to build their own social circles, make friends, and form bonds with teammates.
Play Together and Have Fun
When you play with your child, it shows them that you like spending time with them and that you value their company. Just having fun with your child has numerous benefits for both of you.
Not only do kids develop confidence in their ability to be an interesting and entertaining person who can form solid social bonds, but studies have shown a child’s odds of being happy increases and their risk of depression and anxiety decreases when kids engage in healthy play.2
Building confidence will also help your child better navigate the uncertainties that the 2020–2021 school year holds. Plus, playing and have fun is a great stress reliever.
Give Your Child Responsibilities and Chores
Being responsible for doing age-appropriate chores gives your child a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Even if they don’t do something perfectly, let them know that you appreciate their efforts. Praise them for all the things they do well, and reassure them that over time, they’ll get better and better at many things, including their chores.
Having chores and responsibilities also gives kids a sense of control over their lives. And in a time when things are unpredictable, having responsibility over small jobs around the house can go a long way in building confidence and resilience.
The elementary-school years are a time of fast-growing independence in kids. By the time they reach the middle-school years, many children are starting to spend time alone at home, walking to school by themselves, and helping younger siblings.
It’s important that you allow your kids to grow increasingly more independent, letting them figure out how to talk to teachers about any problems on their own, organizing homework assignments, making sure their soccer uniforms are packed and ready, and so on. So-called helicopter parenting undermines kids’ abilities to do things on their own and negatively impacts their self-esteem. It also robs them of autonomy.
Keep in mind that as kids navigate this upcoming school year, there will be many new things that they must deal with like online classes or new rules at the school. Encourage your kids to advocate for themselves and ask questions when they experience challenges before you intervene. Doing so will build their independence and ultimately their self-esteem.
Refrain From Insulting Your Child
When your child does something that drives you crazy or misbehaves, be sure to separate the behavior from your child. You’re human—when your child pushes your buttons you’ll probably be irritated or even angry. Experiencing these feelings is completely normal, but don’t engage in name-calling or shame your child.
Instead, talk to your child with respect. Don’t yell. Take the emotion out of your discipline. A good way to do this is by using natural and logical consequences, and speaking to your child in a pleasant and friendly tone.
Make Setbacks Learning Experiences
Emphasize the fact that being human means making mistakes and not being perfect. Teach your child to view setbacks as opportunities for improvement and growth.
This approach will be even more important as your child navigates school this year. Regardless of whether their school does online learning, a hybrid model, or an in-person model there will be plenty of new things to learn like wearing masks and navigating online assignments.
Be patient with your child when they make mistakes. And, if you find that they tend to act out at school or experience behavior problems, do what you can to turn those situations into opportunities for growth. Doing so, will help build your child’s confidence and demonstrate that making mistakes is not the end of the world as long as they address it in a healthy way.
Watch Technology Use
In today’s environment, all of us, including students and parents, are consistently connected to our devices. Mobile phones, tablets, and laptops allow people to text, post to social media, conduct business, do schoolwork, and check email on a regular basis.
All this connectivity is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s positive because people can be more productive and stay connected to others from the comfort and safety of their homes. But this online activity can come at a cost if it interferes with family relationships and communication. Likewise too much screen time can impact physical activity.
As a family, decide what type of online activity is necessary and what is purely entertainment. Then devise a plan where you all learn to balance your daily screen time with healthy activities like going for walks, riding bikes, reading, and playing games together.
Let Them Create and Show Off Work
Let your child display their work around the house. When they create artwork, write a story, or put together a project for school, invite your child to tell you about their work. Ask what they want people to think or feel and what they like best about their creations.
Giving children a chance to show off what they make or to talk about the things they create lets them know that their hard work is worthy of attention. It also communicates that their opinions and thoughts matter.
Even if your child is primarily doing all their work at home rather than in school, allow them to display their work around the house. Doing so builds confidence in their abilities and encourages them to continue working hard on their creative endeavors.
Working to build your child’s self-esteem is one of the best ways you can spend your time as a parent. And although it may take a little extra effort sometimes, you will be setting your kids up for success now and in the future.
But just as you don’t expect your kids to be perfect, don’t expect perfection from yourself either. You may not get it right all the time, and that’s OK. As long as you’re consistently trying to share love and positivity, you will be building confidence in them despite a mistake here or there.