Self-doubt is a normal part of growing up. That little voice is inside all of us and always will be.
You know, the one that makes you ask questions like: What if the other kids don’t like me? What if I can’t remember the spelling words? What if my teacher thinks I’m not smart? What if I can’t ace my exams?
While these instances might seem harmless at the moment, self-doubt can grow in size over time. When children don’t learn to confront feelings of self-doubt, negative thinking can become their new normal.
Fortunately, there are strategies that can help build self-esteem in your child. With these, your child can turn negatives into positives:
Build on your relationship
Spend time with friends and family, so your child can feel they are with people who are on their team. Friends can help you celebrate achievements and are especially important when you are going through hard times. Keep reminding them that you’re on their side.
Affirm their abilities
Recognise their strengths and abilities and nurture these. If they enjoy dancing, dance, if they like LEGO, do some together. Spending time doing things they love will make them happier and more confident. Don’t spend all your time and energy closing out weaknesses. Focus on what your child loves instead, so they can thrive.
Teach them to value their thoughts and feelings by letting them know these are important. Let them voice an opinion. Although speaking up can seem scary sometimes, encourage them to put their hand up in class and share their ideas.
Put them out of their comfort zone (gently)
If you try something new together your child can get used to the butterfly feeling in their stomach when they’re nervous or worried. Start with something small, like trying new types of food or an adventure to a new place. Any achievement can be celebrated, as the experience will boost their self-esteem and remind them, “Yes, I can do it.”
Unpack their emotions
Ask your child to describe how he feels when self-doubt creeps in. Is he worried that he can’t complete a task? Is he embarrassed that he doesn’t have someone to sit with at lunch? Is he sad that math is hard? When your child unpacks his feelings, he can begin to work through them.
Make a list
Have your child make a list of negative statements that run through his mind, and then make another list of counter-statements that include steps to boost self-esteem. Instead of, “I’m terrible at math,” for example, your child might say, “I’m working really hard to understand my math homework.”
Try some meditation apps with your child. Encourage your child to understand that the critical voice inside is not something that defines them and to let the negative thoughts go. Meditation helps you to be aware and in the moment, to not worry about the past or have doubts about the future. Deep breathing and meditation actually reduces stress and calms the mind.
Let them model healthy habits
It’s easy to get caught up in negative emotions as adults and sometimes, we may not even realise we’re doing it. For example, how many times have you said ‘oh no, I’ve forgotten to do this. I’m the worst mum’ in front of your child? Our kids take their cues from us, so make corrections to your own negative self-talk to show your kids that even adults need to reframe their thoughts and focus on the positive.
This article first appeared in womensweekly.com.sg.