Building your child's self-esteem

6min read

Mum and daughter going for walk in the woods and laughing

Self-esteem is the way a person thinks about themselves. Having positive self-esteem means you feel confident, fulfilled, and worthwhile, you believe in yourself and understand what you can achieve. Good self-esteem is important for healthy child development; however, it is very common for children and young people to struggle with the way they think about themselves.  We know it is worrying for parents and carers if their child is struggling but don’t panic, there are lots of ways you can help.

Key Points:

  • It is not uncommon for children and young people to struggle with self-esteem, and it is often impacted by challenges they have faced in their lives
  • Pay attention to the signs that suggest your child is struggling, so that you can offer support
  • If your child is struggling, the most important thing you can do is make sure you have a strong, loving relationship with them

Possible causes of low-self-esteem

Struggles with self-esteem can come and go throughout a child’s development. There are many challenges, stresses or pressures a child can experience that impact the way they feel about themselves. These include difficulties such as bereavement, domestic abuse or parental separation, trauma, starting a new school, bullying or friendship issues. Social media can also have a significant impact on self-esteem as much of the content they see can be unrealistic, filtered and show something that is not genuine.

The important thing to do as a parent or trusted adult, is to recognise it is a struggle. Give them your understanding, reassurance, and encouragement so that they know they are not alone in this, and you want to help them.

Signs to spot

  • Their confidence seems low
  • They don’t like change and avoid new situations or meeting new people
  • They are struggling with friendships and feel isolated
  • They feel no one likes them and feel lonely
  • They negatively compare themselves to others and put themselves down, saying they feel useless, stupid, or ugly
  • They have low resilience and struggle to manage some of challenges they face

How to boost your child's self-esteem

Giving your child love, warmth and attention is the best way to boost their self-esteem as your positive relationship will help them to feel valued and important. No matter how old they are, showing an interest in their lives and listening to their problems will help reduce the negative feelings they may have of themselves.

Acknowledge how they are feeling and encourage them to talk to you. You can also challenge the way they think about themselves by saying positive comments about a particular issue they have been down on themselves about. Acknowledge how they are feeling and encourage them to talk to you, an example of this could be, I can see that this is something that you are really struggling with and although I may not be able to fix this for you, I am here to support you. 

You can also challenge the way they think about themselves by saying positive comments about a particular issue they have been down on themselves about. A way of addressing this would be to ask your child what they would say if one of their friends confided in them about the way they think about themselves and what advice they would give them. This can help them to think about things differently and in a more objective way.

Being a good role model is also important and this means you need to be positive about yourself in front of the child. If you are going through a challenging time, you can show them that it is normal to struggle in life but maintaining a positive attitude can make a big difference to how you cope.

Further resources 

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.

Other organisations that can help‚Äč

Young Minds have a helpful advice article that can help with self-esteem

Childline has some advice for children and young people on boosting confidence and self-esteem

Mind have some useful advice for teenagers on confidence and self-esteem

Find out how a can-do attitude, a little self-belief, and a willingness to get things wrong sometimes can set a good example and help your child to grow up with confidence.