When children have trouble with school, the end of summer can bring extra challenges. Trouble with school might be academic problems, behavioral problems, social problems, different forms of anxiety, or some combination of all four. There are lots of ways to approach these issues, but one thing that helps with all of them is building self-esteem.
Self-esteem is your sense of overall value or worth. Children with healthy self-esteem are more motivated academically, are more inclined to make wise choices in behavior, are more assertive in relationships, are less critical of self and others, have an easier time learning from experience, and are less likely to develop mental health conditions such as eating disorders, addictions, depression, and anxiety.
You can't control how your child feels about him or herself, but there are things you can do to help. The first is modelling healthy self-esteem. This is good for both you and your child. The more you act like you hold yourself in high esteem, the more you will begin to do so.
Modelling healthy self-esteem entails speaking well of yourself and others. It means complementing yourself out loud, and limiting self-criticism to comments that are constructive. It's healthy to recognize your own mistakes, but it's not healthy to beat yourself up about them. You also need to speak positively about yourself most of the time. Focus on what you do right and what you love about yourself. That can come across as obnoxious if you don't do the same for others, but if you also complement others all the time, then you're golden.
Additional ways to model healthy self-esteem are to set healthy boundaries in relationships, use effective communication skills, take care of your body, including diet, sleep, exercise, and personal hygiene, and talk about the goals you've set for yourself.
Modelling healthy self-esteem is an important way to teach your children how to hold themselves in high regard, but it's not the only way. Create opportunities for your children to shine. Recognize your children's strengths, and find openings for them to use those strengths. If your child is athletic, enroll them in sports. Don't make sports a job for them; allow it to be fun. If your child is artistic, get them to help you decorate the house, carve pumpkins for Halloween, or decorate eggs for Easter. If your child is good with computers, ask for help on the computer. Maybe you don't need the help, but ask for it anyway.
Limit your criticism. For a lot of people, it's easier to spot an opportunity for improvement than it is to recognize a success. Just because you notice how something can be done better doesn't mean you should open your mouth. People learn by doing. The more that doing is criticized, the less they want to do.
Heap on the praise. You can't love your child too much, and you can't praise your child too much. Sometimes you need to punish a child, and sometimes you need to offer constructive criticism, but that can all be done within a jacket of praise. Billy has detention because he failed to turn in a math homework assignment. He didn't do the math assignment because he was having fun playing with his friends, and math just didn't seem that important at the time. Billy's Dad takes a deep breath, and calmly tells him, "Son, I love you. You made a poor choice. In addition to school detention, you are being punished at home (insert punishment here). You're a great baseball player, and I'm proud of how much you do for your team. You're a great friend. I love to see you out there with your buddies, but we need to get a handle on the homework." Billy may continue to have trouble getting his homework done. Children don't grow up overnight. This is not an example of what you can do to have a perfect child, but an example of how to set your child up for success.
If your child is having difficulty at school, there are many helpful resources available. Talk to your child about what's going on, and collaborate to come up with solutions. Elicit the help of your child's teachers and/or school counselor and explore websites like www.kidshealth.org for guidance. White Willow CRC doesn’t offer counseling for people under 18, but we’d be more than happy to refer you to a child counselor in the Savannah area if it seems appropriate.