Self-doubt and lack of confidence hold more children back than any other factor. So what’s the magic formula for raising young people with bundles of self-esteem?
As a parent, you will unfortunately know the answer already – there is no magic formula! All children are different, with different personalities and ways of approaching the world; but there are ways in which we can help them to improve the way they feel about themselves.
Healthy body, healthy mind
It is important not to think about confidence as just an emotional issue. All the old favourites – healthy eating, exercise, fresh air, staying hydrated – are huge factors in changing the way we feel about ourselves.
Sunflower practitioner and qualified NLP with neuroscience practitioner, Gemma Ware, explains: “These areas are often overlooked when it comes to emotional issues but they are just as important in terms of building confidence in a child. When a child feels good physically, this will spill over into their state of mind and equally, a child whose body is not in its best condition is much more likely to slip into a downward spiral emotionally.
“All the body basics have to be working well together in order for a child to feel good. Even when children visit us reporting emotional issues, we still start by making sure their body is healthy and working correctly and 99% of the time, it isn’t. Undoubtedly, there is a connection between the two areas.”
Okay, we all know as parents that we should avoid labels but it’s easy to let them slip in without realising. Often your child can be the one to attach the label to themselves: ‘I don’t’ want to do that, I’m shy’. As soon as a child thinks of themselves as shy, rubbish at a certain sport or school subject, their ability to perform in that area will diminish rapidly.
You can help your child by reminding them they are not rubbish or shy, they are just finding that particular situation or activity a bit tricky. Remind them that their role models (whoever they might be) didn’t get through life without ever finding things difficult – it is the difficult things that make us stronger/better people.
Focus on the positives
Children who lack self-confidence will tend to focus on the negatives. As a parent, you can help them with this by reminding them of and praising their abilities and achievements. Gemma sees a lot of children with low self-esteem. She says: “The negative voice in our heads always tries to speak louder than the positive, so if the negative voice speaks to your child, tell them to immediately turn it around by repeating the negative voice with a silly accent. This will immediately make them laugh and then it is more difficult to take the negative voice seriously, and it will diminish.”
Another one of those parenting rules that we all know but sometimes can’t help doing – even if it’s just in our own heads. Not all children will be willing to stand up on stage and sing a solo or put their hand up in class to answer questions. It’s worth making sure your child knows they don’t have to be as loud as their sibling or the star of the school show – they may think that’s what you expect of them and letting them know otherwise will go a long way towards helping them to be comfortable in their own skin.
It crops up time and time again – unreasonable body images to live up to. Have a laugh together as you point out how pictures in magazines have been airbrushed. Also, be honest – most of us would change something about the way we look if we could, so it’s healthy to have an open dialogue about this and help them to accept the fact that nobody is perfect.
Social skills don’t always come naturally to children. Those who struggle in the playground or with their peers may just need to be equipped with a few extra tools. To help:
- Talk through/practice different situations with them at home and how they could act
- Give them some ideas of things to say in social situations
- Create a list of games they could suggest to peers
- Suggest taking some props for playtime – a ball, cards, skipping rope – to help them interact with others
If you feel your child needs extra support, contact the Sunflower Programme: 01483 531498, email: email@example.com