Maintaining and (even) Building Your Child’s Self-Esteem Amidst COVID-19

Kids with high self esteem:

  •  feel good about themselves
  • are more likely to have confidence to try new things
  • are more likely to try their best
  • feel proud of themselves
  • cope with mistakes



These are all things we want for our kids.  

Many kids (my own included) enjoy the social aspect of school.  They love seeing their friends but they also enjoy participating in sports, clubs and other extracurricular activities.  Many of these activities are what build their confidence and make the learning part “tolerable”.  

Instead, most students finished their school year remote learning.

For many students, this means all the “fun” parts of school have been removed.  They are spending their days attempting to teach themselves or being taught by their parents or other adults, who didn’t intend on teaching them either.  

Remote learning has been a struggle for many students and their families. It also means many of the activities that build their confidence and self-esteem have also been taken away.  

Which leaves us asking ourselves “how do we maintain and build self-esteem in our children when the activities that build their self-esteem are not available and everyday they must do something that feels too hard for them?” has eleven tips for building self-esteem in kids. 

1).  Step back. 

Let kids make mistakes, take risks, make choices, solve their own problems and stick with what they start.  What are some things they can still do while sheltering in place?  Can they still work on basketball or art or play their instrument?  Is there something new they want to try?  


2).  Over-praising kids does more harm than good. 

Kids gain confidence and self-esteem by trying and failing and then trying again.  It comes from practice.  Over-praising kids tells them they don’t need to keep trying.  If something is hard for them, provide encouragement.  Be their biggest cheerleader, but that doesn’t need to include over-praising.  


3).  Let your children take healthy risks. 

Kids need to take risks, make choices and take responsibility for them.  They also gain confidence by trying something they are just a little bit afraid of.  Do you remember the first time you tried something new?  Maybe it was jumping off the diving board.  It felt scary when you were trying it for the first time, but once you jumped, it felt so good.  


4).  Let kids make their own choices. 

When kids make their own age-appropriate choices, they feel powerful.  During shelter in place, this may mean letting kids have more say in when they go to bed and when they get up in the morning.  Or maybe they decide when they will complete their schoolwork if they are able to do that independently.  It might mean you let them plan the meal for supper one evening or even do all the cooking.  


5).  Let them help around the house. 

Kids need opportunities to demonstrate their competence and feel their contribution is valuable.  Helping at home is a great starting point.  One of the advantages to sheltering in place is most kids have more time on their hands.  If the parents have time, this is a great opportunity to teach some of those independence skills such as cooking and laundry.  


6).  Encourage them to pursue their interests (fully). 

Encourage kids to take on a task they show interest in and complete it.  They will feel a sense of accomplishment at the end.  During shelter in place, this may mean teaching themselves a new skill.  Or maybe they use video lessons during this time.  


7).  What to do when your child fails?  Let them and…..


8).  Don’t lose sleep over it. 

Struggles and failures are a great opportunity to build self esteem.  Honestly, allowing your child to fail early and often, while being there to cheer them on along the way is the best gift you can give your child.  Then, when they get to high school and beyond and they fail (because they will), they already know what to do.  And that failure doesn’t become something they are unable to overcome.  Allowing your child to fail also teaches them you believe they have the power to overcome any failure.  


9).  Make clear your love is unconditional. 

Let your child know you will love them no matter what.  If all you talk about is their performance, they think that is all that matters.  Make sure to talk about ALL the things you love about them.  


10).  Make sure your child’s goals are within reach, at a level appropriate for his/her ability. 

Setting goals that set them up for success builds confidence.  You can also help your child break down big goals into smaller ones that they can achieve sooner.  This builds their self-esteem and keeps them motivated.  

While sheltering in place, it can be hard to work on some of their goals.  Help them think about what they can do.  Does your child’s goal have to do with becoming a better baseball or softball player?  That season has probably been cancelled, but what can they do at home to get ready for the next season?  


11).  Offer appropriate praise. 

When praise is sincere, specific and earned, it is invaluable.  If your child had a great game, praise them for that but be specific about what they did.  If your child had a terrible game but put forth great effort, specifically praise the effort.  If your child just wasn’t into that particular game and it showed, you don’t need to lecture them about it, but don’t praise that either.  Kids are smart, they know when us adults are not telling them the truth.  Be someone your kids know will always tell them the truth.  

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Sometimes we do all these things and our children are still struggling with low self-esteem. 

It may be that they have anxiety or depression and their brain is constantly telling them they aren’t enough.  It may be there is a specific situation they are having a difficult time adjusting to.  In these instances, kids can benefit from therapy.  If you would like to schedule an appointment for your child or want additional information about therapy, please contact us at (217) 203-2008.