Self-Esteem in Children Including after Divorce

Children may have gone through trauma with their parents’ divorce resulting in a dip with their self-esteem. Correct any misconceptions tied to divorce “I’m bad and that is why my parents broke up” or “If I was better, they would still be together.” Reassure children that they are not to blame for any aspect of the divorce and compliment them on their resilience for getting through the process. Rather than trying boost self-esteem in a general way “You are so great and everything you do is great” determine what their core issue is. If their core issue is “I’m unlovable” then work with them on showing that they are lovable. My sons have volunteered with an animal rescue group and the critters have demonstrated great affection towards these boys. There are many other family and community examples of showing that the kids are loved. If a child feels unworthy, then perhaps a divorce professional could help them see that this is a false belief. Hypnotherapy also excels in debunking limiting beliefs that are keeping kids feeling stuck. Work with the negative image that the child may have about themselves in order to achieve a healthy self-esteem.

Having a healthy self-esteem is an intrinsic value and not dependent upon a cheering squad telling kids how special they are. The trick is to help the child feel good about themselves and not be reliant upon others to give them validation. Relying on external factors (continual praise for example) is not the path for a strong self-image. Rather than piling on the compliments, help youngsters discover areas of expertise, skills and hobbies where becoming proficient is what helps them feel good about themselves. A bonus when their validation is internal instead of external, is having less of a chance succumbing to peer pressure.

There is a trend to boost self-esteem by telling each child that they are special. There are seven billion people in the world, so I make a point of telling my sons that they are NOT special. That would mean that seven billion people are special, which negates the Merriam Webster dictionary’s definition of “distinguished by some unusual quality.” Each person has unique talents and characteristics, same as with a fingerprint. On the human level, each person has the same human worth, from celebrities to the lowest caste in India. Children have different levels of ambition and drive which affect what they achieve in life.

This new generation of “special” children is becoming a nightmare in some work places as my sons and their friends have discovered. These children were given awards in school and events just for showing up. That is their attitude on the job. They show up and spend a chunk of their paid time on the phone, leaving others to pick up the slack. The kids who were told how special they are, tell my sons and peers that cleaning and stocking are beneath them. They are not handling feedback well either, since they did not have that opportunity as kids.

As someone witnessing the movement of boosting self-esteem in public schools, there is a connection from being told you are special to gaining a sense of entitlement. It is a rude awakening to learn later in life that the world does not owe you anything. Volunteering helps get the focus onto others so kids realize that they are not the only ones with needs. Helping the community gives meaning to life and feeling connected to others. Donating to charities is another way to banish a sense of entitlement.

Nurture and support your children after divorce. Give cuddles, have fun family time and encourage them to do sports or whatever they enjoy. Set boundaries to avoid kids from becoming little tyrants. Our job is to set kids on a path where they feel good about themselves, yet respect others and not have a sense of entitlement. Some parents have their children check in with a divorce coach to ensure that they are on the right path. If there are any areas of concern then these are addressed to help kids be well-adjusted in the post-divorce period.