Building Self-Esteem in Children Over Summer Vacation
Wednesday, June 26 2013 Emily Roberts MA, LPC
The summer is the perfect time for relaxing, recharging from the hectic school year and is an opportunity to help build self-esteem in children. The activities families are already engaging in can be used as tools for building self-esteem in children, thus enhancing their sense of self and identity. Although we strive to help our kids feel their best every day, even during the busy school year, the summer lends itself to calmer schedules and more one-on-one time with your child or teenager. This the perfect set up for helping your child develop confidence and awareness of where they are on the self-esteem scale.
Validation Builds Child's Self-Esteem
Every summer, my parents allowed me to attend camps and also have some much needed downtime. Days at the pool or lake, followed by some fun activities at home or around town, allowed for them to get to know the unstressed me; the kid who was just a kid, not a student too. The summer before 6th grade, I learned a lot about myself and my parents did too. Although I had butterflies approaching that first day of school, I also was more self-assured and confident from the events that occurred that summer.
That summer, I earned more freedom from my parents and was often validated when I made choices. For the first time, I was allowed to ride my bike to the library and the park by myself. They trusted me to watch my little sister for a few short hours and they let me rearrange my room. My ideas were validated and although I couldn't ride across town, I showed my parents I could do something mature and stuck with it.
Summer Self-Esteem Building Ideas For Kids
Ask For Their Opinion
One of the best ways to help kids learn that their opinion is important is to ask. Kids need to know that their ideas are valued. They also love to know that you’re interested in their choices. It makes them feel important and helps your child build healthy self-esteem.
“What do you think we should for dinner?” “What do you think about this weekend, what ideas would be fun for us?” Even young ones need their opinion valued; you may have to give them a few choices though first. “On our vacation, do you think we should pack this swimsuit or that one?” Followed by a creative complement.
Notice Your Child's Negative Talk
Do you ever notice that your kiddo talks down to himself? Does your child say things like: “I’m stupid.” “That was so dumb of me.” or other putdowns? This is the perfect time to observe the thinking pattern he or she is expressing. This is also a parenting opportunity to stop and notice how you want to respond. Don’t jump in and try to save the day by saying “No you’re not, don’t be mean to yourself.” Sorry but it’s too late for that. They already developed this thought process. Rather inquire more, “I am sorry you feel that way. What made you say that about yourself?” Then, bite your tongue and wait for them to tell you. Once you know what they are feeling and why they feel that way, you can become a better self-esteem coach for your child.
Help them to recognize their negative thoughts and teach them to close the pattern. This means you can tell them a funny story about how you made a mistake or felt that way once, and how you overcame those thoughts. You can also help them find facts that make the statement less true. Then ask them how they feel about their negative statement.
Note a recent time where they acted against their opinion. “I am stupid.” Point that out. “Today I saw you make a pretty smart decision. Remember when you reminded me at the store that we needed juice? Well I would have had to go back if you didn’t remind me. Thank you.”
Help Your Child Feel More Mature
There are many chores kids don’t gripe about, especially those that are accompanied by trust. “Dad lets me help him with washing his car” or “Mom let’s me get the mail.” Age-appropriate tasks can make your child feel responsible and build self-esteem. I remember the first time my mom dropped me at the store to pick up a few items while she ran another errand. I was so excited to prove to her that I could do it.
Give them a new chore or task around the house, one that you think they would excel in. Try two different ones and see which they enjoy more. A smaller child may be able to help you fold some clothes, water the plants, make his or her bed. For older kids, having them become responsible for feeding a pet, running errands with you and things that show you trust them can instill confidence.
Don’t forget to follow up with praise “Thank you so much for putting the towels away without me asking. You are getting good at this.” Comments like this mean a lot. They help your child instill confidence in their abilities, perfect for developing self-esteem.
Share your summer confidence builders below. Have a happy and safe summer!
Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.