Last Updated on December 10, 2019 by Valarie Ward
We recently discussed the alarming trend of depression and suicide amongst elementary aged students. Perhaps one of the most powerful actions a parent can take to counter the trend in their child is to build, boost, and maintain their child’s self-esteem. But how? How do you enhance self-esteem during the volatile primary school years?
Step #1: Ditch the Stress
So you’ve seen it. Your little human’s self-esteem has taken a hit. Maybe they’ve had a rough time at school. Maybe some stress has settled into the home environment and is taking a toll. Maybe something is going on within the family (immediate or extended) that’s causing turbulence. There are many reasons for a young child’s self-esteem to falter. It’s normal.
Let’s repeat that: It’s normal.
Every young child, especially those just starting school (mainly the Kindergarten and first to third grade years), experience dips in their self-esteem. It really is normal. Stressing over it is natural for a parent, but dwelling over to too much can exasperate the situation.
The first step to boosting your kiddo’s self-esteem is ditching the stress and worry that’s settling in above you like a storm cloud. Take some deep breaths, take a moment to recollect, and step back. You’re facing a perfectly normal situation, and there is a solution.
Step #2: Positivity For The Win
According to Public School Review, a website dedicated to helping parents find the right school and successfully guide their child through the school years, positive encouragement is one of the best ways to improve self-esteem. Constructive reassurance and reinforcement take on many forms. Here are just a few:
- Praise For Completing a Task: When your child completes a task you have taught them, commend them. It doesn’t matter how small the task might be; praise nurtures self-esteem. It also encourages repetition of the same task for more praise.
- Praise For Trying Their Best: When your child tries their best, commend them, even if they fail or fall short. Praising them for effort instills a work ethic, teaching them that trying hard and doing their best counts for something no matter the results. Offering praise for trying their best also opens the door to proving positive feedback and correction.
- Positive Feedback: Children look to their parents for feedback and support. As a mom or dad, you are their first role model, and they look to you for feedback when things go right, wrong, and everything in between. Interestingly, constructive feedback isn’t always words of wisdom. Sometimes, a simple smile or wink delivers a potent message of positive encouragement or acceptance to your child. Words are important to choose wisely, but also remember your body language speaks volumes.
- Positive Correction: You are your child’s greatest guide in life, and it will be your task to correct them as they grow and experience new things. Always temper correction with positivity, even when you’re feeling exasperated. Your son or daughter will feed off your corrective actions, and it’ll be up to you to ensure they receive something positive and constructive versus negative and destructive.
The key to positivity is consistency. You must establish a baseline and then consistently build on it. It’s perfectly normal for negativity to seep in, but it’s up to you to counteract it. The more you strive to be positive and reinforce it, the more your child’s self-esteem will grow.
Step #3: Address Bullying
According to Scholastic, 3 million students in grades 6 through 10 are subjected to bullying on a daily basis. For many, bullying starts before middle school. In fact, countless students face forms of bullying as early as Kindergarten and first grade.
Bully has to be addressed, and the solution isn’t always to point out the bully to school staff. While it can be necessary, your child still has to learn how to cope.
Many children suffer dips in self-esteem due to mistreatment and harassment from other students. If your elementary aged child is experiencing a dip, finding out what’s happening on their social scene can help. Once you are aware of bullying behaviors, you can begin helping your child rise above it. Standing up to a bully in the right ways can improve their self-esteem and nurture coping mechanisms that will serve them well throughout life.
Step #4: Involve Their Teachers
It can be one of the most challenging steps, but involving your child’s teachers is important to boosting self-esteem. In elementary school, your child will have a homeroom teacher and other teachers who handle specific classes, such as PE, music, art, guidance, media, and computer lab. Take the time to learn about your child’s daily school routine. Be involved. If it feels like the teaching staff resists, explain why you’re taking an active interest and your goal.
Positive reinforcement and feedback are just as important in the classroom as it is at home. Teachers are often pivotal. They are the people your child depends on to aid them in bullying scenarios. Teachers are also the people your child looks to daily for positive feedback and support. GreatSchools.org has an in-depth article discussing how teachers can foster self-esteem in their students, and it’s a great place to start before talking to your child’s homeroom teacher about your mission to boost self-esteem.
Step #5: Know the Risks of Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem increases the risk of substance abuse, particularly in youth, as it provides addictive relief. Many think of low self-esteem as a sort of stereotype, associating it with shyness, awkwardness, and a standoffish attitude, but low self-esteem manifests in numerous, non-stereotypical ways. One of the most common is seen in making poor or destructive choices.
Know the facts, but don’t let them scare you. A case of low self-esteem doesn’t mean your child is going to one day become a drug addict or alcoholic. It does mean that you should choose times during which you may educate them about the dangers of addictive substances and ways they can protect themselves and stand up to peer pressure.