April 15, 2020

You are home with your kids. They are not running off to school or to playdates or sports games. They are in their room or sitting somewhere in your house, day in and day out.

So here is your chance. I know you’ve been wanting to talk to your son or daughter about lots of things. Maybe you’ve been wanting to have a talk about sex, drugs, relationships, smoking, money… The point is that there may not be a better time to talk about these things than now.

For some it’s harder than for others to initiate these conversations. You think maybe your child isn’t going to listen or maybe they already know everything they need to know. Chances are that they don’t. Most kids find out about information from social media, videos or friends. This can obviously lead to a lot of misinformation. Misinformation can often lead to increased anxiety and fear. Many times these fears are unwarranted and a simple heart to heart conversation can help.

Parents often ask what is the best way to initiate these conversations. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Speak to your child 1 on 1. Bringing up sensitive topics in front of siblings or other family members will likely result in your child not being honest, defensive or embarrassed.
  2. Start a conversation maybe after watching a movie together that brings up these difficult topics.
  3. Try to do more listening than talking when your child begins to open up.
  4. Answer their questions truthfully. Your child needs to know that if they come to you for answers that you will tell them the truth, even if the truth is hard.
  5. If your child becomes defensive or simply doesn’t want to talk about it. Just remind them that you are there if they need you.

This is also a wonderful opportunity to share with your child all of the things that you admire or love about them. This is your chance to boost your child’s self esteem. Did you know that 95 % of teens report having a low self esteem at some point? Also, close to 46% of teens feel a low self esteem overall. A low self esteem can lead to increased addiction, mental health issues, violence, poor academic performance and suicide. Here are some ways to recognize if your child is suffering from a low self esteem.

  1. Blames others instead of self when they do something wrong.
  2. Feeling of hopelessness and negative comments
  3. Can not handle criticism – take things personally.
  4. Tend to avoid new circumstances for fear of failure
  5. Physical problems such as headaches and stomach aches
  6. Focusing on themselves instead of others when dealing with difficult situations.
  7. Social withdrawal. Not wanting to participate in social events with their peers or loved ones.

What can you do now that your child is at home to help build his/her self-confidence?

  1. Give them specific praise when they do something right. Telling them that they are “awesome” “perfect” or just “amazing” does nothing to boost their self esteem. Instead praise specific behaviors such as “Thank you for being such a great helper when I needed help cleaning up the kitchen.””I love how you went and helped your brother when he needed your help.”
  2. Do not constantly tell them what they are doing wrong. Spend the day finding what they are doing right and point it out. Give praise for what they are doing right instead of criticizing them for what they are doing wrong.
  3. We all tend to internalize what others say to us and this becomes the thoughts we hear in our heads over and over. Make a conscious effort to give your child positive thoughts about themselves. Maybe write them a note with an affirmation or help them to find something positive about themselves when they are feeling down.
  4. Help them to find ways to help others. When we shift our focus to helping others, we stop focusing all of our attention on ourselves and we feel a sense of pride in helping others.
  5. Help your child to write down what they think they are good at. Help them to come up with at least 5 things that are their strengths and passions. You can definitely help them with this!
  6. Limit comparison. If you have multiple children, do your best not to compare your kids to each other. Do not compare them to their family members or peers either. Comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy and can result in kids trying to do things to change who they are for what they think is “socially” acceptable.
  7. Try to resist doing everything for them. The more they learn to do for themselves the more confident they feel.

Over the next few weeks you can implement these simple tools in your day to day life. Use words that encourage your child to come out of their comfort zone and perhaps try something new. Help them to recognize their individual talents and gifts. Remind them that these talents and gifts are what make them who they are. We all have to learn to believe in ourselves instead of trying to conform to what society is trying to tell us we should be. We were not meant to fit in, we were born to stand out.

Share with a friend so that they can help their kids too!

Have a wonderful week!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

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