Sarah Kendrick, Head of Service at children’s mental health charity Place2Be, explores what parents and adults can do to improve self-esteem in themselves and children
Can you think of 3 positive things to say about a close friend? What about 3 positive things about yourself? If you struggled with the second question, you’re not alone.
It is sometimes difficult to think of positive things about ourselves and to be balanced and fair when we look at who and how we are as people. From our work in schools we know that this is something children and young people can struggle with too. It can be all too easy nowadays to compare ourselves negatively to others, especially online, and sadly low self-esteem affects more than 8 in 10 of the pupils who have access to our school-based support.
Understanding that we are all unique, with our own strengths, qualities and interests as well as challenges is hugely important for our wellbeing and can help us to build self-esteem. We also know that through having a balanced view of ourselves, we can feel better equipped to cope with life’s difficulties and make better connections with others. That is why this Children’s Mental Health Week (5th – 11th February), our theme is Being Ourselves and we’re encouraging children, young people and adults to celebrate what makes them unique.
There are lots of small things you can do to feel more comfortable in your own skin. Start by looking out for negative self-talk. When you notice that you are being very critical of yourself, try challenging the thought with something positive. Whilst something may have not gone exactly the way you wished it would, it’s important you don’t let it discount all the positive things! Be mindful of the comparisons you make with yourself and other people. Just because someone else appears happy on social media or even in person, doesn’t mean you are necessarily seeing the whole picture. Comparisons with other people can lead to a bad habit of negative self-talk, contributing to poor mental health.
Setting yourself small challenges is another great way to help you feel better about yourself. Whether you start running again, sign up to a new course or learn to cook something new, be proud of what you have achieved. Remember that you don’t have to do it all on your own and if you feel like you are struggling with your self-esteem, the mental health charity Mind has a helpline which provides information on a range of topics related to mental health.
As adults, we play a really important role in helping the children in our lives to develop a balanced view of themselves. We can help them to appreciate and celebrate their attributes in a number of ways. Try pointing out their positive qualities, it could be that they show real determination, courage or kindness – showing you have noticed this will help them to recognise that we all have different things that make us who we are. Don’t forget that you can acknowledge their challenges too, accepting that our struggles are also a part of who we are is important.
Try asking children to tell you three things that they like about themselves. If they struggle, offer some examples. It might be that they are kind and help their friends, they like to make people laugh or maybe they keep trying even if they find something difficult.
Have a chat about your different strengths, qualities and interests as a family. Whether it’s over dinner or in the car, it can be fun to notice how we are all different from each other and you never know, you might also learn something new about yourself! Celebrating your own efforts with your children will also help them to recognise theirs. No matter how big or small, sharing your achievements will help them to understand that we don’t always have to be the best at something to be proud of it.
This article originally appeared on the Counselling Directory, you can read more here.