Welcome to this week’s In Therapy post!
I have decided to start with an important issue that parents might face. The idea to start with a topic related to children came up when I saw a post in a Facebook group – Parenting kids with Dyslexia/Dyspraxia/SPD/ADHD Sussex.
I work with children on the Autism Spectrum, Down’s Syndrome, and other Learning Disabilities, and I can see the stress – and distress – that parents sometimes go through due to their children’s health and additional needs. So working through issues with young people and children, and of course their families, is right up my street!
I shall address topics around Autism in a future post. For today, and the following weeks, I want to focus on children with learning difficulties such as the ones the parents in the Facebook group above might be living with.
So let’s get right into the topic of self-esteem.
What is self-esteem?
The dictionary defines self-esteem as a confidence and satisfaction in oneself; self-respect. It is how we judge ourselves and how we feel about ourselves.
When our self-esteem is at a positive level, we are motivated to achieve, to be ourselves out in the world, to look after ourselves and use all our resources to grow and get what we want out of life. People with healthy self-esteem have a good opinion of themselves. They know they have accomplished in the past (be it in school exams, in making their friends laugh, and in other areas of their lives), which tells them they can do it again.
On the other hand, when our self-esteem is low, we might feel unworthy, incapable, and stop doing those things that would benefit us, like having a shower as a way of self-care, or going out with our friends. Low self-esteem might be a result of other mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, which need to be paid attention to when working through this issue.
How does neurodiversity – neurological differences – affect your child’s self-esteem?
How do we work through low self-esteem issues in children that struggle with “mainstream” ways of doing things, like staying in their seats for most of the day, or their way of learning is different and they need extra support, or they perceive things differently from others?
What is going on emotionally for them? Are they seeing their differences as a negative? Have they been bullied because of their needs?
Children with ADHD might be corrected and/or punished more than others due to the challenging behaviours they might present as a result of the frustration at having to follow certain rules at school or other social situations. These corrections and punishments slowly lead the child to believe they are not good enough, incapable of doing school work or even incapable of being loved.
Children with dyslexia, dyspraxia or SPD might be in a similar boat – they process things in a different way and in different timeframes than mainstream children. They also might need one-to-one support which might make them feel “different”. They might also get frustrated and display challenging behaviours as a result, leading to being reprimanded in some way.
Parents and teachers can do a lot to help their children, and it doesn’t have to be too taxing or difficult. Below I leave you with a couple of tips. More to come next week!
A couple of practical tips to work through your child’s low self-esteem:
- Show your child that they are loved by
- Praising what seem like small accomplishments – they add up!
- Physical touch – hugs, kisses, pats on the back openly show your child that they’re loved and safe
- Support your child in making decisions for themselves – being autonomous and successful at it will help develop a good image of their abilities
- Model the fact that we won’t be right or know everything all the time
- Show your child that you make mistakes and that you can work through it and still be confident in who you are
- If you don’t know the answer to something, be honest and accept that you don’t know, and that it’s ok not to – grab a book or Google and research it with your child
I hope you have enjoyed the first instalment of In Therapy: Working through low self-esteem issues. Next week I will be adding some more tips to the list on how to help your child increase their self-esteem.I will also discuss the causes and consequences of having low self-esteem. Finally, in a third and final post on Self-Esteem, I will talk about how different therapies might work through this issue with their clients.