Emoticons express emotions on flat surfaces; emotions are not as simplistic or as easily understood in 3-D. Emotional health begins in infancy and parents lay the foundation. This month, we discuss the third building block to emotional health: self-esteem.
A positive self-esteem is built. It is not a "once and done" project. Children intake parent's words, actions, reactions, demeanor, affection, gestures, expectations —or the lack thereof — and surmise who they are based on those observations. Mom and Dad matter most, so it follows that children's thoughts about themselves mimic what they believe their parents think about them.
"Self-esteem is a person's core belief about himself or herself. A person's self-esteem is reflected in his or her actions, both in how as well as what he or she does. With healthy self-esteem, a person is more likely to succeed in life. Parents have the greatest influence on a child's belief about himself or herself," according to the article entitled "Growth and Development: Helping Your Child Build Self-Esteem" published by WebMD.
"The man who does not value himself, cannot value anyone or anything." -Ayn Rand
The first building block we discussed in September, sense of security, plays largely into the firm placement of this third block. If a child does not feel secure, he will not value himself highly. Also, our second building block, affection, affects self-esteem. If a child does not feel the unconditional love of his parents, his self-esteem takes a huge hit. Unconditional love holds the power to overlook faults, accept no matter what, and provide a secure family; these give a child a tremendous amount of worth and value, which in turn, helps his self-esteem soar.
"Healthy self-esteem is like a child's armor against the challenges of the world. Kids who know their strengths and weaknesses and feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures," states Michelle New, Ph.D., in her article "Developing Your Child's Self-Esteem."
Self-esteem closely correlates to self-confidence. When a child has a healthy esteem, they gain confidence to move forward. Self-esteem teaches they are valued and have great worth and no matter what happens, those will not change. It motivates them to take on new challenges, try new things and seek new experiences. The worst that could happen is failure, and since they are unconditionally loved, nothing changes. They freely find what they are good at and not so good at.
Commit to working on your children's self-esteem. Remember, they are taking the sum of your words and actions and molding them into their self-image. Encourage their ability to try, even when they are not good at something. Teach them that disappointments and failures don't define them. Help them find something they are good at. Let them know and feel how important they are to your family. Build a positive self-esteem by teaching them they are cherished and significant.
Elaine Stone, mother of three, lives in Spotsylvania County.