Charlie Baulm is a researcher in the fields of addiction and mental health. After battling with addiction himself and finding sobriety, Charlie aims to discuss these issues with the goal of reducing the stigma associated with both. Follow him on Twitter!
When your child has self-esteem issues, it’s not going to be as simple as a positive affirmation to solve the problem. Low self-esteem is defined as a condition when your child views himself or herself as inadequate or who can’t do anything right. This thought process is repeated until it permeates through the whole being. Unfortunately for us parents, we can unconsciously exacerbate the situation with our words and actions.
Many psychologists now are in agreement that low self-esteem is a disorder, much like body dysmorphia, which is often misdiagnosed because the symptoms are quite similar to the whole alphabet soup of conditions. The problem is that low self-esteem is such an abstract concept to be treated, which contributes to the misdiagnosis.
What the Statistics Say About Low Self-Worth
According to a study commissioned by Park Nicollet Melrose Center and titled, “Teens, Social Media And Body Image,” 8 in 10 women are not satisfied with the way they look, while 7 in 10 who actually have normal weight want to become slimmer. More than 8 in 10 girls who are 10 years old have an unusual fear of becoming fat.
More than half of 13-year-old girls are not satisfied with their bodies. In fact, a typical 10- to 14-year-old girl today could already be on a diet. By the time they hit 17 years old, the number balloons to more than 7 in 10.
Children with low-esteem problems are vulnerable in the sense that they tend to go out of their way to please everybody. They can easily be manipulated this way.
Tips in Helping Your Child With a Low Self-Esteem
Here are some ways to help your child:
- Positive affirmation – Avoid negative words when talking to your child and comparing them with more accomplished siblings and friends. However, be realistic with your praises.
- Get their input in the decision-making process – This is one way for your children to forge their identities. When they realize that their voices matter in the home, they become more confident about speaking up.
- Encourage them to learn new things – It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture like learning ballet. Even riding a horse, kayaking, or painting the shed will be enough. The important thing is you are there with them.
- Don’t box them in – We always think that our kids are the smartest and the most beautiful small persons ever. But don’t reward their effort by equating it with a certain quality (smart, genius, strong-willed, etc.). Let them have their own identity without your constant pressure.
- Lead by example – You can talk a good game all you want, but your child will always look at your actions first. They observe more than you think they do. How do you deal with your body image? Do you use negative self-talk in front of them?
- Let them make a mistake – This is another way they can develop their own identity. They have to make a mistake in order to learn from it and build on it going forward. They are going to make bad decisions sometimes, don’t reprimand them for it. Rather step back and ask them what they think is the best way to handle the situation.
Unfortunately, low self-esteem can lead to addiction. Young people turn to drugs and alcohol as an outlet when they are feeling down about themselves. Another study affirms this as it claimed that girls with a low self-worth tend to engage in harmful behaviors. There are rehab facilities that help your kids manage the substance dependence but in some cases, it can take a lifetime of follow through and counseling for your child.
As parents it is important to pay attention and listen not just to what your kids are saying but more importantly, to what they are not saying. Verbal cues are important, but many times it is the subtle signs of low self-esteem that are easier to spot. Many people who struggle with low self-esteem are not comfortable talking about their issues, even with their parents. Most importantly, continue to encourage your children and speak highly about them, let them know that they are just as capable as anyone else in terms of accomplishing their goals and building their own lives.