Thursday, October 18, 2012

Expert advice: Parenting for your child's self-esteem

This guest post is written by a real-life friend, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Nationally Certified Counselor working in the field of mental health since 2006. She shares some valuable advice for parents who want to build self-esteem in their children. 

Hilary practices at Reflective Counseling Services, LLC, with counseling services in Marietta, GA.
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Kid Problems are REAL Problems
Hilary Delman, LPC

As parents, it’s easy to look at our children’s “problems” and shrug them off.  We, after all, are busy worrying about bills, planning meals, getting the house clean, laundry…we are worried REAL problems.
Stop. Close your eyes. Do you remember being 12? 15? 17? Do you remember what you worried about? Oh yeah…you worried about your clothes, your friends, your boyfriends.

Yes, those problems are REAL. They may seem insignificant to us because let’s face it, paying pills is a bit more important than what you are going to wear the next day. But not to our pre-teen, teen or teen.

As parents we say we want our children to be confident and happy.  But what does that really mean and how do we actually raise confident and happy children?
We let them feel their feelings and we validate their feelings. No matter how insignificant it feels to us.

Feelings exist.  Feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just are. What we think happened might be right or wrong (ex. you told your daughter she couldn’t go out until she did her chores but all she heard is that she can’t go out), but FEELINGS ARE NOT RIGHT OR WRONG. 

Think about a time when you felt like your feelings were INvalidated. Yeah, a time that you thought someone was telling you that you SHOULDN’T feel a certain way. How did you feel? Did you question yourself? Were you mad at yourself? Did you start questioning every feeling you’ve ever had? When a child feels invalidated, it hurts their self-esteem. They doubt themselves. They question themselves. Their self-confidence diminishes.

When we don’t validate our child’s feelings, our child things he or she is wrong. Whether your child admits it or not, your child is looking at you to help them learn how to be in the world. He or she is thinking “is it right that I’m feeling this? Let me run it by mom…” Your child probably doesn’t realize that’s what’s going on and certainly won’t admit it, but that IS what is going on!

So, how do you validate your child’s feelings?

This means stop what you’re doing and make eye contact with your child. Repeat what you hear. This way you make sure you actually heard the problem/concern and you your child will know you were really and truly listening.

What does your child need? Ask him/her.  Too often we jump to try to fix things. Sometimes that is not what our child needs. Sometimes our child just wants to explore his or her feelings or just wants to feel heard. 

Identify the feeling. For example, “You feel angry.” Your child may say no…he or she may tell you that you are wrong. That's OK! Your child is exploring feelings and trying to identify the correct one. By naming a feeling you are helping your child get in touch with and identify his or her feelings. This is a very valuable life skill! Rest assured…you do not have to be right all the time! It’s actually a valuable skill for your child to see you make a mistake. “OH! Mom’s not perfect! She’s still ok! I don’t have to be perfect all the time!“

Let your child express his or her feelings both positive and negative. Don’t judge, don’t dismiss. Just be there and watch your child’s confidence grow.

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Reflective Counseling Services, LLC therapy services

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