You love your kids with all of your heart and when they struggle with loving themselves, it's heartbreaking to watch. Low self-esteem in kids is common, but that doesn't make it any less painful, or serious. Kids suffer from low self-esteem for many reasons, ranging from bullying to emotional issues and everything in between.
When kids wrestle with low self-esteem, parents want to naturally blame themselves. Is it happening because of something you said? Or didn't say? Do they feel you don't love them? The answer to 'why' is complex, but if you're a loving parent, then the simplest answer is: it's not your fault.
If you think your child is suffering from low self-esteem, there are some signs to watch out for. Once you feel confident that self-esteem is the issue, seek professional help. Counseling, a mentor and even your child's pediatrician can help provide tools to getting your child through this difficult time.
Avoidance – When things are painful, kids tend to shy away. If you notice that your child is pulling back from things he used to love, there may be a reason why. While he may not want to tell you, it's important that you recognize the issue and don't force him to do something or go somewhere he associates with hurt or pain.
Behavior Issues – Changes in behavior, such as acting out, bullying, talking back (more than you feel is normal), regressing into baby-ish behaviors, becoming angry or lashing out are all changes to pay attention to. You know your child best. If she isn't acting like herself, it's time to find out why.
Falling Behind – When self-esteem issues are a problem, you may notice your child's school performance suffering. Low self-esteem not only disrupts a child's emotional well-being, it disturbs their mental health as well. If they are not mentally focused and are instead hung up on the thing(s) causing them to feel low, their grades may slip, or they may get into trouble and have no interest in activities they once enjoyed.
Negative Self-Talk – One of the biggest signs that your child may be struggling with his self-esteem is how he speaks about himself. "I'm too stupid." "I can never do anything right." "I'm ugly." "Nobody likes me." These are just a few examples of negative self-talk you may hear from your child. If so, it's time to intervene. While your positive praise is good, you won't drown out the voices in his head. You'll need to find out where they're coming from.
Withdrawn from Peers – It's important for your child to have friends who love and accept her for who she is. Having a circle of good friends helps to build confidence and self-esteem. However, some of your child's peers won't love or accept them, even if they claim to be friends. And your child may not have the strength it takes to walk away from the wrong crowd. Instead she may allow herself to be subjected to verbal and/or physical abuse. As a result, self-esteem issues could stem from being around children who impress negativity upon her. Often times these children have their own unresolved issues and use your child as an outlet for releasing their frustrations, insecurities and hate. If your child is withdrawn from children at school, this could signal a problem.
Trouble with Feedback – Constructive criticism is healthy, and feedback for improvement is a great learning tool. However, if you notice your child overreacting to your helpful remarks, or if he freaks out when you tell him he needs to fix something, it could be because he's already feeling down about himself. Give loving feedback, but also try to find out what's really at issue.
Depression - Low self-esteem and depression often go hand-in-hand. If your child doesn't feel good about herself, she could begin to show signs of depression. This may include feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, weight changes, loss of appetite, anger or irritability, inability to sleep, self-loathing, problems concentrating and unusual behavior. If you recognize any of these symptoms, take it seriously and seek out help. Depression is a major risk factor for suicide, especially among children who have yet to learn how to deal with their emotions effectively and in a safe manner.