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How can I help children feel a sense of self-worth?

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Youth who view themselves positively have a greater ability to succeed. This positive self-image, combined with hope for the future, is what will give them the strength to face the challenges of life and become successful adults. Consider the following information to help youth see their positive traits and build feelings of self-worth. • Encourage them to have a sense of personal power. Youth must believe they have the power to make changes in their lives. Successful youth understand that they have control over many things in their lives and that they can also make a difference in the lives of others. Children should be allowed the opportunity to make decisions at every stage of their lives, starting with age-appropriate choices when they are young and progressing to more difficult issues when they are older. Youth who have been given choices as they grow will have greater trust in their abilities. Ask for and let them know you value their input. Teach them to recognize the things they can and can’’t control, and assist them in areas where they can make a difference. Encourage them to serve in the community and on advisory boards, especially for organizations that are designed to serve youth.

• Build self-esteem. Self-esteem is a key ingredient for happy, successful youth. The seeds for positive self-esteem are planted at a young age and nurtured by parents, family, teachers and other caring adults. Express love for your youth often and let them know it is unconditional. Assure them that you love them even when they make poor choices. Let them know how much you value their uniqueness and individuality. Help them build upon their special talents and develop skills and abilities that are of interest to them. Take pride in their accomplishments and regularly talk to them about their strengths and positive contributions to the family. Give specific examples of the things they are doing well. Treat them with respect and take them seriously.

• Help youth develop their talents and gifts. Provide opportunities for them to explore different activities that will enable them to discover their own unique abilities. Support their interests by providing training or lessons to help them develop their talents. Recognize and praise them for their efforts.

• Help them develop a sense of purpose. As youth grow to adulthood, they should develop a sense of purpose about their lives, cultivate dreams and aspirations, then make daily choices which lead to those dreams. Youth who have a sense of purpose will set and achieve goals, which can increase self-esteem. Teach them how to set short and long term goals, and encourage them to review their goals and make changes as necessary. Demonstrate through your actions that your own life has purpose and meaning. Talk to your youth about their hopes and dreams, and share your dreams with them. Spend your time in meaningful activities which are in keeping with goals you have set for yourself. Limit the time spent on television, electronic games or other activities which steal time away from youth. Instead, encourage them to get involved in activities or programs which match their talents and interests. Help them identify role models who seem to have a strong purpose in life, and discuss what it is that makes these people different. Encourage youth to nurture their unique talents and gifts, and discuss ways these talents can bring added meaning to their lives.

• Encourage a positive outlook. Youth, like all of us, will hold a more positive outlook on life when they feel they are well prepared for the future. Optimism can be nurtured by parents and adults who help youth visualize their dreams, who teach them to look for the good around them and who speak with enthusiasm about the future. Encourage your youth to dwell more on future opportunities than on past mistakes or regrets. As a family, collect articles from newspapers or magazines which talk about the good things people are doing to make the world a better place. Discuss career options with your youth and help them set and obtain goals which will lead to those paths. Enjoy life and model an optimistic attitude for your youth. Make yourself available to listen as they discuss their goals and dreams. Be enthusiastic about their interests, and give positive feedback when discussing their future ambitions.

Posted on 3 Oct 2003

Tom Lee
Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

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