Jamie McCabe

Many children and teens struggle with low self-esteem. Adolescence especially is a time with a lot of change and teens become more focused and aware of self. Changes to their lives as well as physiological changes can often lead to uncertainty and impact self-esteem.

Higher self-esteem is a benefit to children and adolescents because it is associated with fewer emotional problems like depression and anxiety. It also can impact decision making and peer interactions as well as resiliency and strategies for coping with new and challenging situations.

Below are some tips and things to think about when interacting with your child to help improve self-esteem:

  • Focus on their efforts and their interests, not just their successes. Instead of saying, “I love how you won that basketball game,” you can try, “I love how much you enjoy playing!” Help kids to see the link between their efforts and their outcomes with statements like, “You studied really hard and did great on that test!”
  • Our kids love to hear that we are proud of them and it is important for us to tell them but they also need to learn to feel proud of themselves. Try, “I’m proud of you and I bet you’re really proud of yourself.” Encourage kids to identify at least one thing each day that they can feel good of and proud of themselves for whether it be a good grade on a test, that they worked hard at school that day, got their room cleaned or were nice to a friend/peer that day.
  • Have conversations with your kids about character traits they value in others and help them to see those values in themselves. This will help them to reduce the emphasis on external factors that can often become a focus in adolescence like looks and body image. If they value loyalty, honesty, and kindness in their friends and can see that they too are loyal, honest and kind they will see value in themselves.
  • Give your kids opportunities to make choices when safe to do so. When kids are able to choose for themselves it helps them to learn problem-solving skills and builds confidence.
  • Help them to identify negative self-talk and challenge them to change it to something more positive and kind to themselves. If you hear them struggling with homework and say, “I’m so stupid! I’ll never understand this!” help them to change it to, “This is new and I don’t understand it yet but I will.”
  • Lastly, and possibly most importantly, model good self-esteem for your children. Children learn by what they see and live each day. As a parent, you are their role model for how they treat themselves. When they see you love and care for yourself it teaches them that it is ok for them to love and care for themselves.