As adults, we can support children’s self-esteem in many ways. Good self-esteem protects children and adolescents from social exclusion and risk behaviour and helps them cope in challenging situations.
Believe in the child. Talk actively about the child’s skills and efforts and what they’re good at. Whatever happens, show them that we can get through this together. Trust the child and trust that they will do well, and when there is trouble, trust that better times will come. Be present in the child’s everyday life. You can’t detect blows to a child’s self-esteem if you are not present and listening in everyday life. Be there for the child, mentally and physically!
Support when needed. Share feelings and worries with your children and encourage them to think about how problems could be solved. Succeeding and overcoming challenges builds good self-esteem.
Find happiness in everyday life. In everyday life, it’s a good idea to forget ‘useful’ work for a moment and focus on working on self-esteem. Spend a day in pyjamas, build huts, take over the nearby woods, organise a ‘joke week’ or a bit of exercising and stretching. And when your children are happily going about their business or your adolescent is thinking about life, let them feel that they are the apple of your eye and they make you proud. Your children are unique, the best at being themselves. They have the right to feel that they are good just as they are: the heroes in their own life. A good tool for collecting everyday joys and children’s skills is the book “I can and I succeed” (in Finnish).
Set an example as a person with good self-esteem. This means being happy about your life and valuing what you are. Children often start to treat themselves in the same way their parents treat themselves: either respecting or belittling themselves.
Understand the individual. Every child is unique. Some are convinced they are the best, no matter what happens. There are also those who are insecure and need constant encouragement. Every child also goes through different phases. Don’t try to change your child into an average child or anything they are not. Accept differences in temperament and the child’s personal path of development. Let the child want things: it’s good to have goals and to try to reach them.
Take care of yourself. You’ll walk uphill and downhill hand in hand with your child, who has the right to show their feelings – including distress, anger and disappointment. These challenges take their toll on adults, and it’s important to seek strength from wherever you can.
Believe in yourself. You are the best parent there is for your child. Children and adolescents need your parenthood as fertile soil on which to grow, to build a sturdy trunk of self-esteem with branches giving them the courage to reach high.
Adapted from Cacciatore-Korteniemi-Huovinen (2009).