How to Foster Resiliency and Self-esteem in Your Child
As parents, one of our ultimate goals is to help our children learn the skills they need to become independent and productive members of the community. Building resiliency and positive self-esteem are two critical ingredients to achieving that goal. But it’s a balance, and often a difficult one, when do we step in and when do we let them figure it out for themselves? We can’t protect them from all of life’s ups and downs, nor should we try, but with some simple strategies we can help prepare them to manage difficult and unexpected challenges.
So, what is self-esteem and resilience? Basically, self-esteem is how the child views themselves and their abilities. Resilience is how capable they are to bounce back after a challenge and try again. Here are 7 simple and effective ways to foster positive self-esteem and resilience in your child.
- Show them unconditional love: This does not mean you approve of everything they do, but that you love them no matter what and they can always trust that you’ll be there. Having at least 1 positive adult relationship is the leading protective factor for good mental health.
- Give your child chores and responsibilities: All children, starting around the age of one can help with simple tasks around the house. Include them in cleaning up after playtime and meals, have them help with unpacking groceries, allow them to feed pets in the home. This shows them that we believe they are capable.
- Encourage independence and allow them to struggle: We all have busy lives and sometimes this means we do for our children what they can do for themselves. Resist the urge to jump in right away and give them the chance to try and try again. When time allows, encourage your child to do things independently like dressing themselves, preparing food, and rinsing dishes.
- Play together and have them teach you something: Have fun and be silly with your child. When they build a tower or draw a picture, ask them to teach you how they did it. Show them that you are in wonder of their creativity.
- Acknowledge that all feelings are welcome: Children often have larger and more extreme reactions than we feel is appropriate for the situation. Instead of trying to change how they feel, allow children to feel discomfort. It’s important for children to learn to tolerate uncomfortable feelings, and when we try to fix everything or quickly get them to change their feelings, this sends the message that being uncomfortable is bad. This also robs them of the opportunity to problem solve. Help your child develop problem-solving skills by asking them to brainstorm with you. Ask “What do you think?” or “Can you think of anything that might be helpful?” Support your child but try not to solve everything for them.
- Praise effort over outcome: We want our children to learn that their effort is more important than the outcome. Instead of saying, “You’re so smart, you read your name,” try saying, “I love how you kept trying and worked really hard to read your name.” This teaches kids that trying again and again is valued more than achieving the goal.
- Embrace mistakes (theirs and yours): Make setbacks learning experiences and model for your child how making a mistake is natural and that it doesn’t stop you from trying. The word “yet” can be very powerful in these situations. If they say, “I’ll never catch the ball!” Help them rephrase it, and say, “You haven’t caught it yet, let’s keep trying.”
Book recommendations that promote self-esteem and resilience:
- Listening with My Heart: A story of Kindness and Self-Compassion (Gabi Garcia)
- Sticks and Stone (Beth Ferry)
- I Can Do Hard Things: Mindful Affirmations for Kids: (Gabi Garcia)
- Never Let a Unicorn Scribble (Diane Alber)
- I Choose to Try Again (Elizabeth Estrada)
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