We all want our children to feel good about themselves and have confidence in their abilities. Helping young people develop good self-esteem can strengthen their resilience and ability to manage and overcome challenging situations.
Self-esteem is something that develops over a period of time and is influenced by many different things such as family, friends, relationships, personality, media, and the environment. Self-esteem is reflected in the thoughts and feelings we have about ourselves, how we feel about the person that we are and how much value and worth we feel we have.
What is good self-esteem?
Having good self-esteem means feeling good about the qualities we have and accepting our limitations.
A young person with good self-esteem is more likely to have an optimistic outlook, think of themselves in positive ways and feel confident in their abilities to manage and overcome difficult situations.
Self-esteem can fluctuate if we are experiencing challenging and stressful situations, such as starting a new school, experiencing difficult relationships with friends and family, exam stress, or conflict at home.
Young people with high self-esteem generally:
- Think about themselves positively
- Find it easy to make friends
- Manage new situations and adapt easily
- Feel good about their achievements
- Learn from their mistakes
- Feel confident about their abilities
What can affect a young person’s self-esteem?
Many factors can impact on a young person’s self-esteem and will differ for each person, but self-esteem can be heavily influenced by the way other people treat and see us. A positive experience of interacting with others can help develop a positive self-image, whilst negative interaction can adversely impact the opinions that young people have of themselves. Parents and carers have a vital role in helping children to develop good self-esteem, as parents and carers are the people who most often interact with their children.
If a young person has low self-esteem they might:
- Have negative beliefs about themselves
- Tend to focus on their mistakes
- Find it difficult to see their positive qualities
- Blame themselves for things that happen
- Have negative thoughts, such as “I’m not good enough”
Other influences on self-esteem
During the teenage years the impact of body image on self-esteem can be powerful. It is not uncommon to have negative thoughts every now and again about our bodies, but finding ways to have a positive body image is important for good self-esteem. Read more about body image at the Children’s Society.
Social media can be a great place for young people to keep in touch with friends and family, learn new things, explore interests and share important news and events.
For some young people the value of the feedback related to followers, comments and likes, can be very powerful and can either have a positive effect on self-esteem or a negative one. Read more about the impact of social media at Dove.
Difficulties and stress within the family, such as bereavement, divorce, family conflict, and serious illness can all have a detrimental impact on esteem. Read more about this on the YoungMinds website.
Looked after children may face particularly difficult issues with self-esteem; listen to these carers discussing some of these:
What can I do to help?
Having healthy self-esteem is important for young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Someone experiencing low self-esteem may be at more risk of developing things like anxiety or depression.
Some things you could do to help your child with having more positive self-esteem include:
- Be positive about your child – show them love and support, pointing out their positive qualities
- Model good coping skills; show a positive attitude when managing difficult situations
- Praise effort and attempts to try something new
- Encourage them to take small steps towards a bigger challenge
- Encourage them to share their opinions and thoughts, show them their opinions are valued
- Give the message that it’s ok to get things wrong, encourage them to learn from mistakes, ask “what could you do differently next time?”
- Gently challenge their negative self-talk, encourage more positive language
- Encourage interests and talents
- Consider group activities/clubs
- Ensure care is taken of their physical health, encourage your child to keep active and eat a well-balanced diet
- Help to foster your child’s independence
If you feel that your child’s low self-esteem is impacting on their day to day life then it’s important that you speak to someone for further support; this might be a GP, a teacher/mentor, or a school counsellor.
YoungMinds provide a confidential parent advice line on 0808 802 5544, where further advice and support can be found.