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Your child's self-esteem:

Did you know that a healthy self-esteem could protect your child against bullying, drug abuse, crime, and even teenage pregnancy?

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According to the California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem, a positive view of oneself is a 'social vaccine' that helps the child negotiate their way through adolescence and into a successful adulthood. Children with a hearing loss are like any other child in this respect. And the good news is that you, their parent, can make all the difference in helping them to develop positive feelings of self-worth.

Self-Esteem

What is self-esteem? It means we value ourselves, know what we're good at, have a positive outlook on life, and believe that we deserve to be treated well by others. The foundations of a strong self-esteem are laid down in early childhood. Most very young children have a good self-esteem. As they grow older, their self-esteem can come under attack from a world that is not always friendly. When the child additionally has a hearing loss, the challenges may seem quite daunting at times. However, parents who are aware and informed are able to help their child maintain a healthy self-esteem. It doesn't have to take a lot of time or money: the everyday moments that you share offer a wealth of opportunities for you to enhance your child's feelings of self-worth.

Tips on enhancing your child's self-esteem:

Encourage your child to try new things. With your guidance and support, your child will feel it is safe to try something new. A child who is happy to try new things will grow into an adult who is confident about seizing the opportunities that come their way.

Set aside some one-on-one time. We all like to know that we are special and appreciated. Children love to spend one-on-one time with a parent, focusing on things the child enjoys. Make this a special time just for the two of you and let your child know how much you enjoy their company. When a child has an adult in their life who is willing to put them first, this not only develops health self-esteem, but also fosters in your children the qualities of optimism and resilience.

Reinforce positive behavior. Offer words of praise when your child has demonstrated a behavior that you are trying to teach. For example, if your child has worn the hearing aids for the required time, be sure to give positive praise. It is much more rewarding for the child to hear this than to be criticized for not wearing the hearing aids. In other words, give praise when praise is due.

Provide choices for your child. As children grow up they begin to become more independent and learn how to assert themselves. In order to avoid power struggles, especially in the day-to-day aspects of family life, provide choices for your child. For example, if walking the dog after school is one of their chores, let them chose whether to do this before or after they do their homework.

Avoid judgmental comments. When a parent tells a child to 駎ry harder and put in more effort� it sounds judgmental, as if the child was lazy or did not care. Often, children try hard but still experience difficulties. Let them know that this is a part of life, and work with them to develop strategies for dealing with the challenges they face. Model problem-solving techniques for your child, and you will give them the confidence to know that they can tackle anything life throws at them.

Show empathy towards your child. If your child is having difficulties living with a hearing loss, showing empathy is important. Show that you are thinking about them: Voice your understanding of your child's difficulties. Once out in the open and acknowledged, the difficulty becomes a problem to be solved together. Thus self-esteem is reinforced, as the child learns that no problem so great that it cannot be overcome with the right strategy.

Focus on your child's strengths. Children with a hearing loss can often feel defined by their impairment. This, in turn, can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Turn the focus away from the hearing loss and highlight your child's strengths instead. Knowing that there are things we can do well, which we are valued for, is the keystone of self-esteem. All the children in the family will benefit from this 'accentuate the positive' approach.

Provide opportunities for your child to help. Children love helping others and are very willing to do so. Not only does this make them feel good about themselves, but it also gives them the chance to show that they have something worthwhile to offer.

Allow your child to fail. Adults with a healthy self-esteem are not afraid of failure. They know it is an inevitable part of life. If we try to protect our children from failure, we teach them to have unrealistic expectations of the future. We are also in danger of making them afraid to take risks. Instead, turn failure into a positive learning experience by reflecting with your child on what went wrong and what they would do differently next time.

Have realistic expectations and goals for your child. This will promote both a sense of accountability and a sense of control. Work with your child to set the goals: let them discuss with you what they believe they are capable of achieving. It can be tempting for a child to avoid taking responsibility by blaming any shortcomings on their hearing loss. Realistic, mutually agreed goals help to avoid this. Your child will also learn to speak up for him or herself and learn how to advocate for any special needs connected to their hearing loss.

Help your child to understand the nature of the hearing loss. Children often have misconceptions about their hearing loss. By talking openly about the hearing loss, you can clear up any confusion and also provide your child with the language they need to articulate their hearing loss and their special needs to others. By keeping your child as fully informed as possible, you give them a greater sense of control over their lives, and the confidence that things can be done to improve the situation.

It has been truly said that what is good for the special-needs child is good for all children. Each of the steps outlined above would have a positive impact on the self-esteem of every child in the family, and need not be confined to the child with hearing loss. A child with healthy self-esteem is more confident and self-assured, more willing to take risks and accept challenges, more likely to grow into a happy, independent adult. Healthy self-esteem is closely linked to strong problem-solving skills, which will enable your child to make good decisions even in the face of peer pressure. With informed parents on hand to guide and support, a child with hearing loss is as capable as any other child of developing and maintaining a healthy self-esteem.