Self-confidence is something that many people work their entire lives to develop. For most, this journey of development of self-confidence begins in childhood, as it is the first time we become aware of ourselves and our abilities. For children and adolescents, specifically, they tend to struggle with the flexible thinking it takes to see the “gray area” that comes with personal traits, strengths, and weaknesses. While adults may be better able to think something along the lines of “I know I am smart, even though math is hard for me,” a child or teenager may see struggling with something, such as a particular school subject, as automatically equating to them not being “smart” at all. Low self-confidence is not always easy to identify in children and adolescents. Even when not explicitly expressed, low self-confidence can still show itself in a variety of ways, such as:
- Not attempting or showing little effort in schoolwork or extracurricular activities
- Saying “I can’t”
- Emotional outbursts or meltdowns
For people of all ages, having low self-confidence can affect emotional well-being, making feelings of sadness, worry, and frustration more prominent. The good news is that there are strategies that can be used to help children and adolescents increase their self-esteem:
- Point out when you notice your child doing something well.
- “Thank you for cleaning up! You are so good at being helpful!”
- Acknowledge your child’s effort and persistence.
- “I think it’s amazing how you kept trying to get across the monkey bars, even though it was hard!”
- Speak positively about yourself and others. Children often pick up on what we say about ourselves and others and internalize this as a framework for how to speak to themselves.
- Have your child participate in activities that they enjoy or that you think they will excel in based on their strengths.
Gaining self-confidence is a journey. With changes like these, we can help our children to set off on the right foot on this journey!
Submitted by Natalie Altenburg, M.A.
Natalie Altenburg, M.A.
Natalie Altenburg is a graduate student at Midwestern University’s Clinical Psychology Doctorate program and is also taking part in the program’s Child and Adolescent Area of Concentration. Natalie has previously participated in clinical training and part-time work opportunities in an inpatient psychiatric hospital, a pediatric occupational therapy clinic, and a special recreation center. In her role as a therapy extern, Natalie is thrilled to be helping children and their families develop ways to manage several mental health conditions, including anxiety, mood, obsessive-compulsive, and eating disorders. She is also passionate about helping children and adolescents on the Autism spectrum learn to thrive with their unique needs and abilities.
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