How to Help Your Child Deal with Low Self Esteem and Low Confidence


Low Self Esteem and Confidence underpins the majority of mental health problems including anxiety, depression, eating disorders (inc. anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and many behavioural problems.

Couple this with the fact that most mental health problems develop before the age of 18 years and the importance of helping your child to deal with low self esteem and confidence now is indisputable.

The steps below have been developed by the team of Clinical Psychologists and Counselling Psychologists at The British CBT & Counselling Service. They are based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), currently the most effective type of therapy for mental health and mental health related problems available.

1.       Counteract their Self Critical Voice

Low Self Esteem and Confidence is the results of a self critical pattern of thoughts. These thoughts consist of a combination of the following:

– The negative evaluation of oneself

– Comparing oneself unfavourably to others

– Evaluating one’s current situation as negative and predicting that the future will bring no change to this

– Underestimating one’s ability to control or change anything that is important or will influence one’s situation in a positive way

The first step in counteracting your child’s self critical thoughts is to identify these thoughts and then help the child to distance themselves from them. This is done using a technique called Externalising. Help your child think of these thoughts as coming from a separate entity, create an image of this together (e.g. a mean alien or monster) and give it a name.

Use this created separate entity to talk about the thoughts that make your child feel bad about themselves and think up ways of how you can get the better of it. One such way is to begin keeping a daily positive log in which you and your child record all the things that they have achieved (sometimes this may be surviving a bad day). This log allows you and your child to gather evidence which contradicts you’re their self critical voice gradually undermining the self depreciating thought patterns and building more self accepting alternatives.

2.       A balance between SHOULDS and WANTS

Strong self esteem and resulting good mood is influenced by how we spend our time. Make sure that your child has a balance of things that they have to do and things that they want to do.

Also, check that they have plenty of downtime; with the intention of offering their children a wide variety of experiences and opportunities, maybe ones that they did not have themselves, parents are encouraging children to do an ever increasing number of extracurricular activities.
However, children need to time to process their experiences and to just play; overfilling a child’s day robs them of the time and space they need to work out who they are and what they need.

3.       Be a Good Role Model

As a parent you are the single biggest influence on your child. It is from you that your child will learn about their value and worth in the world; through not only from how you treat them but how you treat yourself. Therefore be aware of your own self esteem, how do you feel about yourself, how do you treat yourself? Your child is watching you, learning from you, so make sure that you are teaching them by example to accept, value and nuture themselves.

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