Parenting

Does your child or teen have low self esteem?

Sometimes low self esteem is obvious. Your child might make comments about their appearance or how they act. young teen low self esteem

Sometimes low self esteem is not. Your child might laugh and act ‘fine.’

When your child’s self esteem is low it can affect all aspects of life. For children with ADHD or Aspergers it can be extra difficult to know how or when to help.

What is healthy or positive self esteem

Healthy or positive self esteem is when we can accept who we are. We do not necessarily have to ‘like’ every part, but we can accept those parts if they cannot be changed. Healthy self esteem is the thoughts, experiences and friendships that we surround ourselves to promote happier living. It is the opinion we have about yourself, and it is a good one!

What is low self esteem

Low self esteem is when we do not value ourselves. We may talk down about ourselves, avoid fun things, have anxiety, and overly focus on how we look and act. Low self-esteem is frequently recognized by lacking self-confidence and can be a short-term or a long-term issue.

What causes low self esteem

There are a lot of potential causes of low self esteem. Common causes include: undiagnosed learning disabilities, undiagnosed or untreated ADHD or other diagnosis, parental conflict, peer rejection, mimicking others (frequently parents or best friends whom have low self-esteem) and many other possibilities. 

Symptoms of low self esteem

  • Avoiding friends
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-confidence
  • Difficulty talking to friends or low social skills
  • Acts ‘different’ than peers
  • Eating disorders
  • Cannot accept compliments or gets upset when complimented
  • Focusing on negatives
  • Cannot name 3 things they like about themselves
  • Avoiding hygiene, or excessive focus on appearance
  • Excessive worry about hurting someone else’s feelings
  • Excessive worry about others’ opinions
  • Does not trust their own opinion


What do they hear?

  • Is your child or teen told no multiple times a day?
  • Do they frequently get in trouble?
  • Is your child picked on by a teacher?
  • By peers?
  • Is your child or teen bullied?
  • Or you suspect it?

What do they say?

  • Does your child make comments about making mistakes or not being good enough?
  • Would your child say they feel accepted and wanted?
  • Does your teen frequently say they can’t do something?
  • Do you notice they won’t talk about their friends?
  • Or school?
  • Do they always say ‘everything is fine’?
  • Or deny anything is wrong?

How do they act?

  • Does your child or teen avoid peers?
  • Do they hide in their room?
  • Do you notice they are smiling less?
  • Does your child or teen spend a lot of time picking out an outfit?
  • Or doing their hair / makeup?
  • Do you notice they act different around some friends versus others?
  • Are they super-sensitive to criticism or critique?
  • Are they a perfectionist?

Does low self esteem cause anxiety?

It can! They frequently occur together. Low self-esteem can cause anxiety and anxiety can cause low self-esteem.

Does low self esteem cause depression?

It can! When we have low self-esteem we frequently feel sad which can turn into depression. 

Does low self esteem cause anger?

Yes! When we have low self-esteem we may be more likely to react emotionally, which for many people is shown as anger.

Does low self esteem affect friendships?

Yes! When we have low self-esteem we may be more likely to either avoid friends, or give into peer pressure to feel ‘liked.’

Ways to help improve self esteem

  • Focus on what your child CAN do! What are they great at? Good at? Working at? Making improvements on? Share these things frequently with your child or teen.
  • Have your family and child’s teachers, coaches etc. focus on what they CAN do as well!
  • Focus on affirming your child. Do you naturally point out what you are proud of or thankful for? Many parents are great at doing this sometimes. Let’s do this all the time. Try to affirm your child 10 times a day. Or maybe 20 times a day. Focus on everything positive.
  • Create an accomplishments board. Have a wall or a board that lists all the awesome things your child has done. Hang that school award. Post that higher than normal grade. How about ribbons? Write the praise you give or have heard and post it. This accomplishments board is great for self-esteem!
  • Minimize focus on negatives and mistakes. If your child focuses on the negatives and what they have done wrong, does anyone else in the family do that? Maybe you can correct how you handle your own frustrations!
  • Give your child or teen choices when possible. This helps them feel empowered.
  • Do not do everything for them- let them try to help, even if it might take longer or it would be easier if you did it.
  • Avoid using the word ‘perfect’ to describe accomplishments and goals.
  • Do not be insincere- children and teens will know if you are praising them and do not mean it.
  • Do not compare your children, or your child to peers.
  • Spend one on one time with your child
  • Do not use sarcasm – children may have trouble understanding it as sarcasm.
  • Consider counseling! I would love to support you more!

How counseling can help

In counseling, we focus on teaching new skills to ‘love yourself.’ We learn why your child or teen has low self esteem and correct the bad habits that promote it. I will help your child explore their feelings, find healthy ways to express themselves and create new positive habits.

In counseling, we will support you as the parents to understand why your child has low self esteem, what you can do to help at home and at school, and areas that could promote healthy self esteem. It is a team effort that creates a better, healthy home dynamic where most families report a calmer, happier household.

If you think your child or teen could benefit from healthier self esteem, please do not hesitate to reach out!