Children are born with belief and optimism to dream big. Switching from a tea-towel cape to a cardboard box helmet is all it takes to go from being a superhero saving the lives of teddy bears everywhere to an astronaut exploring the outermost galaxies.
However, as kids grow and learn more about the world around them, they face obstacles and challenges, and the doubt can creep in. Their confidence may be knocked and self-belief can wane.
Throw social media and societal pressures, school closures and developmental changes into the mix and it’s easy to see why there is a feeling of uncertainty among our children today.
A new report has revealed up to 1 in 5 Aussie kids reported negative self-esteem when they started high school.
The survey of 27,000 Australian primary and secondary school students, conducted by Forge Wellbeing for the Weet-Bix Feed The Belief Report, also found a fall in self-esteem through the high school years.
Self-esteem is the extent to which humans value themselves – in short, it’s about liking who you are.
Positive self-esteem builds confidence and allows children to try new things, take healthy risks, act independently and take pride in their accomplishments. Negative self-esteem can impact quality of life, and result in children having negative feelings, problems socialising with others, a fear of giving things a go, and a fear of judgement.
So, how can you maintain and nurture your child’s self-esteem? We asked psychologist, parenting expert and founder of Happy Families, Dr Justin Coulson for his 5 top tips:
- Foster friendships
Healthy, positive relationships are crucial to establishing and maintaining self-esteem.
Kids need mates. We all do. It’s important for children to have and maintain friendships throughout their school years as it promotes continuity in people they can confide in and share experiences with.
You can help by encouraging get togethers; supporting friendships that are positive and important to your child; and expanding their friendships networks beyond school, so if relationships with one group declines, there are other friends to lean on.
- Nurture family connections
Kids with parents or caregivers who are highly involved in their lives generally fare better academically, emotionally and socially. Healthy relationships with parents will help a child know they are loved and belong to a family that values them.
As a Dad of six, I know finding time can be tough but even minutes matter. Mirco-interactions such as having breakfast together, chatting on the ride to school or walking the dog together are all moments to connect, listen and open dialogue. Talking casually can encourage your kids to share their own stories and thoughts.
It can also be valuable to have regular check ins to get a sense of your child’s emotions and thoughts, so you can chat through any changes, whether big or small.
- Encourage school belonging
Kids spend a third of their day at school, which makes a sense of “school belonging” vital. As well as healthier self-esteem, children who feel part of the school community tend to have better grades, closer friendships, and more positive mental health than those who are disconnected.
A good start is to encourage and support participation in school groups and joining school activities that foster community and connection. It’s doesn’t matter whether that’s sports, bands, or drama. Just follow your child’s passion.
- Discover their strengths
There’s a bigger knock-on effect to encouraging your child to follow their passions. Whether through school or extra-curricular, exploring their interest will help your child develop new skills, identify their strengths and build self-esteem.
Rather than steering your child towards an activity you want them to do, encourage their ideas and let them try their hand at a few different things that interest them, that way they can decide what they love as well as what they’re good at! This also helps to build autonomy.
- Don’t forget healthy habits
Don’t underestimate the basics. Encouraging a wholistic approach to health and wellbeing from an early age will help to foster and maintain a child’s self-esteem. This includes things like being physically active and having a healthy, balanced diet, getting enough sleep at night, participating in household responsibility (yes having chores) and setting clear boundaries for screen time.
To learn more about the importance of building and maintaining self-esteem and promoting a positive outlook in children, and for more of Dr Justin Coulson’s advice, download a copy of the Feed The Belief Report.