Nurturing confidence: Ways to boost your child’s self-esteem

Mother comforting daughter

Helping your child develop confidence is an important aspect of their development, and has lifelong influence on shaping beliefs about themselves and their abilities. Self-esteem, often referred to as confidence, is the sense of one’s own worth and capabilities. It encompasses feelings of self-worth, self-acceptance, and self-respect. Children with healthy self-esteem are more likely to navigate challenges with resilience, develop positive relationships, and pursue their goals with determination. 

Many factors can negatively impact a child’s developing self-esteem. From social media pressures to academic stressors, it’s crucial for you as a parent to play an active role in fostering a positive sense of self-worth in your children. In this article, we will explore the importance of confidence-building, the ways technology and social media impact self-esteem, and provide practical tips for you to empower your children at different stages of development.

Understanding the impact of social media on children’s confidence

While there are many factors that impact confidence in children, the increasing amount of time they spend engaging with social media and other digital platforms plays a critical role. Social media has become a common part of children’s lives, offering opportunities for connection, self-expression, and exposure to diverse perspectives. However, it also poses risks to their mental health and self-esteem. Research has shown that the ways in which youth engage with social media can negatively impact their developing self-esteem, especially platforms that promote liking and commenting on posts and images. The curated and often idealized images presented on social media platforms can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and comparison among children. 

General strategies for supporting the development of healthy self-esteem include positive feedback on their areas of strength, encouraging them to persevere in the face of difficulties, and supporting the development of healthy peer relationships. Depending on the child’s age and developmental level there are specific strategies that can help.

Father playing basketball with his son

Tips for boosting your child’s confidence

Elementary school age (6-11 years old):

  • Encourage exploration. Provide opportunities for your child to explore different interests and hobbies. Whether it’s art, sports, music, or science, nurturing their passions can instill a sense of competence and mastery.
  • Offer praise and encouragement. Acknowledge your child’s efforts and achievements, no matter how small. Providing praise for tangible things they’ve done and have control over (ex: “You worked so hard on that!), as opposed to physical attributes (ex: “You’re so pretty!”), is very important for supporting healthy self-esteem development.
  • Foster positive relationships. Encourage your child to form friendships with peers who support and uplift them. Strong social connections can boost self-esteem and provide a sense of belonging.
  • Provide strong oversight of digital media consumption. Be aware of what your children are engaging with online, and set clear boundaries around what is safe and healthy for them at this age. Use a parental control solution, like Qustodio, to bring more ease to the process of setting and enforcing tech limits.

Middle school age (11-14 years old):

  • Promote self-expression. Encourage your child to express themselves creatively through writing, art, or music. Providing outlets for self-expression can help them develop a sense of identity and self-worth, and give them an outlet for stress and other uncomfortable emotions during the turbulent pre-teen years.
  • Teach resilience. Help your child develop resilience by teaching them how to bounce back from setbacks and failures. Encourage a growth mindset, emphasizing the importance of effort and perseverance in achieving goals. Spotlight your own mistakes and failures to help normalize not being “perfect” at everything.
  • Monitor social media usage. Keep an eye on your child’s social media activity and engage in open conversations about its impact. Encourage them to curate their online content mindfully and to prioritize real-life connections over virtual ones. Ask them how things they’re engaging with on social media make them feel about themselves, and share your own experience with that. Research shows that continuing to limit time spent on these platforms is important for supporting overall health and wellbeing at this stage of development.

High school age (14-18 years old):

  • Foster autonomy. Empower your teenager to make independent decisions and take on responsibilities. Encourage them to set and pursue their own goals, fostering a sense of autonomy and self-efficacy. It’s crucial for teens to know that you believe they are capable and can manage things successfully without your constant intervention.
  • Promote self-care. Encourage healthy habits such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, and mindfulness practices. Teaching your teen to prioritize self-care can improve their overall self-esteem, as healthy lifestyle habits are highly connected to mental wellbeing.
  • Talk about experiences on social media. Engage in discussion around their use of technology and social media, and what they observe about its impact on their thoughts, feelings, and sense of self. Be aware that issues with body image can be significant at this age, especially for girls, and it’s important to explore these with kids in the context of their time spent on devices. Tips for addressing this important issue can be found here.

Building confidence in children is an ongoing process that requires your patience, support, and encouragement. By understanding the impact of social media on your child’s mental health and implementing practical strategies to boost their self-esteem, you can empower your children to navigate the complexities of growing up with resilience and confidence. 

Remember, fostering a positive sense of self-worth in children lays the foundation for their success and wellbeing now and as they grow into adulthood.

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