Word of the Week: self-esteem

Being a parent or care-giver is an experience like no other. Not only are we charged with the care and keeping of these completely dependent children, but we are responsible for their emotional, social, and intellectual development as well. Tonight at bedtime, my 8 year-old daughter asked me (seriously) if she could shave her legs. And her arms. She views herself as too hairy and claims the other children are “staring” at her. My response: “I’ll think about it.” She’s EIGHT. After I plucked the five new grey hairs she just gave me, I thought about it. More specifically, how might this issue affect her self-esteem?
Self-esteem can be broadly defined as the way we each feel about ourselves…either positive or negative in nature. It begins to develop in infancy, and continues through adulthood. Depending on what is happening in our lives, self-esteem may be low, high, or simply moderate. One thing is for certain: the foundation of self-esteem (positive or negative) is laid sometime during childhood. Self-esteem is perpetual and yet ever-changing. WebMD describes it on a continuum: a sense of BELONGING (fostered by caregivers) leads to LEARNING (though exploring a safe environment) which then becomes CONTRIBUTING (to said environment). CONTRIBUTING adds to the sense of BELONGING, and thus the cycle continues. Let’s take a moment to look at how we can foster positive self-esteem in our girls.
According to http://www.healthychildren.org, we can help our daughters achieve positive self-esteem by:
🔹Promoting pride in herself and her accomplishments
🔸Ensuring she feels accepted and loved
🔹She feels secure about herself and her future
🔸Help her formulate goals and a realistic plan to achieve these goals
🔹Foster trust in herself and others (through LEARNING and CONTRIBUTING)
🔸Help her to accept mistakes (we all make them!!!), and move on
🔹Focus on your immediate and extended family’s strengths through community involvement
🔸Trust her enough to give her responsibilities
In my experience, we need to provide boundaries for our children from Day 1. Not just physical boundaries (such as baby-gates to protect her from falling down the stairs), but behavioral boundaries as well. Boundaries teach our children self-discipline, a crucial component of positive self-esteem. Our daughters also learn a lot just by observing what we, as care-givers, do: how we act and react. With this in mind, I found 3 helpful hints from http://www.kidshealth.org/:
🔹”Be careful what you say,”
🔸”Be a positive role model,”
🔹”Identify and redirect inaccurate beliefs.”
I’m fairly certain I’ll be employing #3 above in addressing my 8 year-old’s shaving issue. Are second graders really THAT focused on hair? I think I will first determine if her belief is indeed inaccurate, and proceed from there. I realize this could backfire…what if second graders really are ALREADY hyper-focused on appearance? It saddens me to think that these little girls are already being bombarded with unrealistic images and expectations. After all, everybody has hair on their arms! Until next time…

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About Jess

Jess spent many years working with children and adolescents diagnosed with Emotional and Behavioral disorders. After taking time off to be a stay-at-home mom, she now works to help people of all ages and abilities improve their lives by achieving health and wellness.

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