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Skipper L Harvey, PsyD
January 25, 2013

Self-Esteem In Children And Teens

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is defined as a confidence and satisfaction in oneself. It is basically an individual’s core belief that is reflected in their actions. Although self-esteem can fluctuate from time to time depending on happenings in one’s life, there is an overall consistent pattern of either a healthy or unhealthy view of oneself the majority of the time. As with most things in a child’s life, the foundation of self-esteem is largely established in childhood with parents having the greatest influence over a child’s overall view of self. As a parent, try to react to your child’s behavior with praise and encouragement more than with criticism to help your child develop a sense of belonging in the family. Criticizing a child does not teach them how to change their behavior or make better choices, while praise and encouragement communicate a parent’s expectations clearly.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

Signs of low self-esteem may be in response to a life stressor or they may be a telling sign of how your child relates to the world. When the behaviors listed below become a repeating pattern it is highly likely that there is a significant problem that needs your attention and involvement. If you feel that you are unable to adequately help your child it is time to consider professional help before symptoms worsen.

• Consistently avoids a task or challenge without trying
• Repeated pattern of giving up at the first sign of frustration
• Excuses for inadequacies such as blaming others or downplaying important events
• Academic decline and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
• Social withdrawal
• Critical self-comments and put-downs
• Pattern of difficulty accepting either praise or criticism

Self-Esteem and Social Media

Tweens and teens with low self-esteem are emotionally vulnerable in the world of social media where very often worthiness by a user is judged by the number of comments, likes, retweets, shares, etc. that one receives. Insecure tweens and teens are at an increased risk of posting inappropriate content as they strive to be liked by others and create an online identity where they appear to be one of the “cool” kids. Social media can be a very dangerous place to keep up with peers as this online world sometimes creates a fictitious reality. It can lead to unhealthy comparisons that are typically not present in face to face interactions. In 2011 the American Academy of Pediatrics released a clinical report entitled, “The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families.” As a result of this study, a new term emerged called “Facebook Depression” which is caused when status updates, wall posts, photos, relationship status, and number of friends from peers make one feel inferior in comparison to the point that they exhibit depressive type symptoms.

How to Nurture a Healthy Self-Esteem in Your Child

When a child is faced with a loss or a failure it is important for them to have the support they need to learn to evaluate a situation in order to make a better choice next time. It is also important that they learn that mistakes are a part of everyday life and are an opportunity to learn and be a better person. If you feel your child is about to make a choice that may not be to his or her advantage, take the time to prepare them for the outcome. This will encourage your child to have what is termed a “growth mindset” where they do not feel like a failure for a poor choice but instead feel they can do better next time. On the flip side, “fixed-mindset” children have a tendency to have an emotional breakdown or become very defensive when faced with failure and/or losing. To help your child have a healthy sense of self-esteem it is important to focus on the following:

• Teach and model for your child how to have healthy peer relationships
• Accept your child unconditionally
• Respond positively to your child’s efforts and interests even if they are different from your own
• Involve your child in chores around the home in order to enable him/her to learn and master new skills while feeling like a contributing member of the family
• Always treat your child with respect
• Always be your child’s support system in times of failure or loss

Websites for Additional Information on Self-Esteem

About Dr. Skipper
Dr. Skipper is a Florida Licensed Clinical Psychologist who works extensively with children, adolescents, and families to provide therapy and psychoeducational assessment services.

She received her doctorate degree from the Florida School of Professional Psychology.  Dr. Skipper has worked with children, adolescents, and families in a variety of settings which include mental health clinics, residential settings, drug treatment facilities, and schools.

Through the integration of a variety of empirically-based treatment approaches, Dr. Skipper assists her clients by providing new skills and empowering strategies to build distress tolerance, enhance awareness and communication, facilitate insight, and challenge maladaptive relationship and thinking patterns. She employs an active therapeutic stance to facilitate long-lasting, positive change. 

Dr. Skipper’s background also includes a B.A. in Elementary Education with 11 years of experience in primary education. 

Disclaimer: The above information is not intended to provide professional advice or diagnostic service. If you have any concerns about Self-Esteem or other health issues, please consult a qualified health care professional in your community.