A healthy self-esteem is a really important factor for raising a child with a successful and happy life.
Having a growth disorder can really affect a child’s sense of worth. They can feel inadequate, isolated and uncomfortable with themselves, leading to a loss of self-esteem and potentially other psychological problems.
Fortunately, you as a parent can play a really big role in improving the self-esteem of your child. When children are small, they have a very close and intense relationship with their parents and really value their opinions. This is a great opportunity to lay a good foundation for a positive self-image and self-esteem.
What can I do?
Helping your child’s self esteem is not just about praising them all the time. It is about communicating clearly and rewarding them when they have done well. However, praise without criticism will not help your child be resilient to the outside world, nor help them to understand how to behave correctly.
Here are some general tips:
- Give your child praise - about their appearance and behaviour. Make it clear to your child what behaviour you appreciate and why you appreciate it.
- Emphasise what your child is doing well – looking at the positive rather than the negative (what they are doing wrong) will help them to focus on positive behaviours.
- Give your child constructive criticism – always explain why you don’t like what your child is doing. It makes it easier for them to accept and potentially alter their behaviour in the future.
- Give your child the opportunity to experience the consequences of their own behaviour - let them experiment, within certain limits, so they can appreciate why listening to you is important.
These tips are applicable to all children, including children with a growth disorder. Some children may act younger than they really are, as they are often treated this way. It is important that you treat your child the age that they are and not what they look like.
Sending the right messages
Many parents do not realise that they, unintentionally, are delivering negative messages. Sometimes it is well intended, such as being protective, but it can actually make things more difficult in the long run. Over-protected children can feel as if they are unable to do things for themselves and may become afraid and anxious.
Try to encourage your child to be active, enterprising and curious. This will be good for his or her development and allow them to grow in self-confidence.
Be conscious of making comparisons between your child and other siblings or friends. This may even be in the positive such as “you can even play football as well as your sister” but may still make your child feel self conscious. Instead try to treat your child as an individual as much as possible and avoid comparisons.
The right attitude
Your own attitude is important. If you expect little from your child, they will also have lower expectations of themselves.
For example, if you are not very positive about their future prospects (e.g. their ability to find work, or study successfully), they may also feel that they are not capable of very much. Although you may have your own concerns, be mindful not to express these in front of your child, and instead encourage him or her to aspire to be the best to their abilities regardless of their growth disorder.
Focus on the positive
Although self-esteem is in part to with appearance, teach your child the values of things ‘inside’ rather than ‘outside’. These are things like being a good person, being smart or good at certain things. Remind your child that their value and worth comes from lots of different places and not just how they look.
Helping your child to lead as ‘normal’ a life as possible, and treating them as an individual, will really help them to feel confident and able to pursue whatever ambitions they may have in later life.
Use the links below to find out more about:
- Symptoms and types of growth disorders.
- When to see your doctor and how to get diagnosed.
- How to treat growth disorders.
- How can we live with it - with stories from real life patients and a section on needle fear.