Four Ways to Boost Your Child's Self-Esteem

March 27, 2013 Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

Self-esteem is so important when parenting a child with mental illness. "Mom, I'm abnormal." I froze. as my son said this on the way home from my father's house. After yet ANOTHER difficult conversation with my father about my son's abilities and capabilities, Bob said this on the way home from my father's house. Bob's self-esteem took a hit.

Self-Esteem Shot Down

Bob forgot there was no after-school today and went there anyway instead of staying at school in their program. My father made a big stink about Bob forgetting that and barely acknowledged that Bob did the right thing by calling me and him. Instead of telling Bob what a good job he did, my father fixated only on Bob's forgetfulness. I felt SO bad for Bob. How do you respond when your child says he or she is "abnormal?" How do you help improve your child's self-esteem especially around his or her mental health diagnosis. Here's what I did.

Get rid of negative thoughts

Bob's statement that he was abnormal is called a "negative distortion." Or 'negative thinking'. Parenting a child with mental illness also means helping your child change negative thoughts into positive ones. By helping your child see the good things about him or herself, it improves your child's self-esteem. It was Bob's negative thought about himself (based on my father's statement that Bob should remember things all the time). I talked to Bob about his distortion. Yes, he made a mistake, but that did not classify him as abnormal. It simply meant that he's human and makes mistakes.

[caption id="attachment_1903" align="alignleft" width="170" caption="Positive Thinking "][/caption]

Point out the good stuff

Remind your child of what he or she did right. Bob knew to call me to let me know what happened and to then call my father for pick-up. I told Bob how proud of him I was for his initiative in knowing what to do in this mini-emergency (since I was at work and was getting out two hours later). Let your child first what he or she did right. Bob knew that he made a good decision and knew how proud I was of him.

Give constructive criticism

Yes, you want your child to be proud of him or herself, but you also want to give your child tools for the next time something happens. Bob's ADHD diagnosis makes it hard sometimes for him to remember certain things. Some days are better than others. Bob and I talked about ways that he could remember important information - notes, talking to the teacher, etc.

Let your child come up with a plan for next time

Bob came up with a solid plan to help him remember important details like when the after school program is closed or when he has a big event coming up at school. Not only do you get a solution out of it, but your child will feel good about him or herself because he or she came up with the solution.

The self-esteem of a child takes beating when that child deals with mental illness. Whether it happens at school, at home or at the grandparents' house (like with Bob), it is important to help your child through the tough times while also giving him or her good tools to deal with unexpected situations . Hopefully, these tips will help you understand your child's self-esteem and help you boost it.

photo credit: Key Foster via photopin cc

APA Reference
Zalamar, H. (2013, March 27). Four Ways to Boost Your Child's Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, February 29 from

Author: Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

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