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How to Assess Your Child’s Self-esteem: Studio 5

When to worry about your child and how to help!

Self-esteem, a popular construct used to describe an individual’s inner experience, has two parts: how you define yourself, and how you evaluate yourself. It’s easier to evaluate your own experience than someone else’s subjective experience, even your own child. Here are some signs of healthy self-esteem, some examples of when you should be concerned about your child’s self-esteem, and how you can help them develop healthy self-esteem.

Hallmarks of healthy self-esteem in children and teens:

Competence

is possessing skills to face life challenges at their developmental stage.
Important skills for young children are basic social skills to get along with peers, to work out disagreements, or new activities like to learning to throw a football, or how to read. For adolescents, top skills are having social skills to navigate the complexities dating relationships or development of study skills to succeed in school.

Confidence

is belief in one’s self, one’s abilities, and in one’s experience. The felt assurance he or she is valuable and capable. Confidence is being open to new experiences, and willing to risk looking silly.

For example, my 8-year-old son went skiing for the first time last month. While he was a bit nervous, after only an hour he was skiing without the constant help of my husband. After a few hours was skiing on his own and enjoying himself.

Connection

is the ability to feel close to family and friends, to give and receive affection, to share thoughts and emotions, and to seek comfort and help when distressed. Empathy for others and for their own experiences is easily felt and expressed.
In my therapy practice, I have seen hundreds of children and adolescence who look exceptional on the outside – straight A’s, leaders at school, beautiful, athletic, but who are feeling worthless inside. Parents are baffled by their child’s internal pain because they “look fine” and “have so much going for them”. What many of these parents fail to realize is their child’s need for a genuine emotional connection with their parent and for the skills and permission to say, “I don’t want to play this sport”, or “Dad, it hurts me when you yell at me”, not just praise for their outstanding performance.

Coping skills

are the ability to handle a variety of situations and emotions and to accept and learn from mistakes without self-doubt, self-loathing, and excessive guilt. It’s also the ability to experience a full-range of emotions, find healthy expression of emotions, and to and bounce back from disappointments, and to take responsibility for choices without blaming others.

When should you worry about your child’s self-esteem?

1- Excessive focus on performance

In an effort to build self-esteem, it’s common for parents to push a child to excel in a particular sport, or academic endeavor, musical instrument, or to notice and praise a particular personality trait over and over. If your son’s self-definition is based on being a star baseball player, what happens if he doesn’t make the high school team? If your daughter labels herself as “the smart one” and gets a C in chemistry, it may shake her self-esteem. If your child self identifies himself as “the nice kid”, and then feels intense anger, he may deny the anger instead learning from it and finding a healthy was to express it.

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