Self-esteem is all about how highly children regard themselves. Many things damage their self-esteem, such as being bullied, being frequently criticized, being made to feel ashamed and not having their emotional needs recognized and fulfilled.
Messages that affect self-esteem are given by family, friends, employers and other people with whom children interact. If these are overall positive messages children are more likely to have high self-esteem. Positive messages include praise, applause, smiles, hugs, plenty of eye contact, people seeking their company, laughing at their jokes and inviting them to join them in some activity. If children get overall negative messages they are likely to have low self-esteem. Negative messages include criticism, frowning, hitting, having people walk away from them or avoiding them and not making eye contact during conversation.
Having overly high expectations of themselves dents children’s self-esteem, but having expectations that are too low can also give them poor self-esteem as they might never feel proud of achievements that were so easily won.
By being aware of how things affect their self-esteem children could do more of the things that help to raise it and do less of the things that contribute to lowering it. To help motivate them to do arduous things that make them feel good, children should reward themselves regularly by doing something pleasant such as seeing a friend, buying a magazine or something nice to eat, having a long bath, playing a game or surfing the internet, going shopping or to the cinema with friends.
Guide the Children Through the Following Activities and Questions:
– Write down or think about all the things that people have said or done that have made you feel good about yourself and all the things that people have said or done that have made you feel bad about yourself. Which column is longer?
– How would you describe yourself? Are these adjectives positive or negative or a mix of both? What are they overall?
– Self-esteem is to do with what you think of yourself and how you think other people see you. Do you have high or low self-esteem?
– What are the consequences of having low self-esteem? (Having less motivation, less concentration, less willingness to work, less pride in your work and play, being less caring towards other people, taking less care of yourself and being at risk of depression.)
– What do you think are the consequences of having high self-esteem? (Being more responsible for yourself and other people, being less likely to pick on others, having greater motivation and concentration, being happier overall.)
– What can you do to raise your self-esteem? (Do more of the things that give you a good feeling inside and fewer of the things that give you a bad feeling inside.) Sometimes you get a bad feeling inside even if you have done nothing wrong – it may be that the problem lies with the person giving you the negative message, such as a bully, or a parent or teacher misunderstanding the situation and treating you unjustly.
– Treating yourself also raises your self-esteem. Write down what treats you could use to reward yourself for achieving something or for coping with something that was hard to do.