What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is how we think and feel about ourselves. Having healthy self-esteem means being comfortable with how we look and how we feel. It means feeling good about ourselves, our abilities and our thoughts.

Self-esteem is made up of all the experiences and relationships we have in our lives. For children and young people, building self-esteem is an ongoing process and starts early. Their self-esteem and confidence can go up and down depending on the situations they are in. For example, you might have a child that is really outgoing outside of school but really quiet and shy in class.

Parents and carers have a role to play in helping children and young people develop healthy self-esteem.

Why is healthy self-esteem particularly important for children and young people?

Young people with low self-esteem can find it very hard to cope with pressures from school, peers and society. The teenage, and increasingly pre-teen years can be very stressful as youngsters are expected to achieve good grades, look a certain way and be successful or popular. Children and young people with low self-esteem are more at risk of developing depression, anxiety, self-harming and other mental health problems as they grow up, and will often find the ups and downs of life in general harder to get through.

Most children and young people will have dips in self-esteem as they go through different stages and challenges. Starting or changing school, moving house, changes in the family can all affect a child’s self-esteem but with support they can get through this.

Is low self-esteem a mental health problem?

Self-esteem and mental health are closely linked but low self-esteem isn't a mental health problem itself. Some of the experiences of low self-esteem can also be symptoms of mental health problems, such as:

     -  feeling hopeless
     -  blaming yourself unfairly
     -  disliking yourself
     -  worrying about being unable to do things

If there are a lot of things having an impact on your self-esteem over a long period of time this may then lead to mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Similarly, if you are already experiencing mental health issues it can cause you to have low self-esteem, which can make it more difficult to cope or to take steps to improve your mental health.

Improving Self-Esteem Top Tips

Promoting self-esteem in your child is incredibly important. Staying positive and being generous with encouragement and praise are two of the most important steps any adult can take to help promote a child's self-esteem. 

Lead by Example
Remember you are a role model; children take their lead from how those around them act. Parents’ actions give children their strongest guide for their own behaviour. Bearing that in mind, try to avoid criticising yourselfin front of your children and encourage them to express themselves by talking to you about feelings.

Give Children Individual Attention
Show your children affection and be interested in them as individuals. When children feel that their parents notice them it helps them develop positive self-belief and that they are important as an individual.

Praise Effort Rather Than Outcomes
It’s important that children build resilience to deal positively with disappointment. If children are to feel good about what they are doing, they need to be able to recognise that the effort they put in is equally as valuable as the outcome.

It's OK to make Mistakes
Treat mistakes as learning opportunities. Reassure your child that it is ok to make mistakes and let them experience the consequences of their choices. Learning from mistakes enables us all to recognise what to do differently next time.

Discover and Develop Social Skills and Talents
Help your children develop their social skills and talents through attending clubs and activities. Encourage them to use creativity to express themselves. It is important that you encourage your child to engage with others and take part in activities to develop new interests and stretch their abilities.

Acknowledge Success
Sometimes it’s hard for children to acknowledge the things they are good at and instead they may focus on the things they can’t do. Praise your child’s achievements and tell them you are proud of them. Don’t spend time focusing on areas where they haven’t done as well and encourage them to keep doing what they do well.

What does healthy self-esteem look like?

Children and young people with high self-esteem:

          -  Have a positive view of themselves
          -  Make friends easily and adapt to new situations
          -  Can play on their own or in groups
          -  Will try to work things out for themselves but are willing to ask if unsure
          -  Can be proud of their achievements
          -  Can admits their mistakes and learn from them
          -  Are willing to try new things and adapt to change