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How Can I Help My Child Develop Healthy Self-Esteem?

I often hear my daughter putting herself down, saying things like "I'm so ugly" or "I can't do anything right." I try to assure her that none of these things are true, but nothing I say seems to make a difference. How do I know if my daughter is suffering from something more serious than insecurity? And what can I say or do to make her feel better about herself?
- Dan

How kids feel about themselves can depend on many different factors, such as their environment, body image, experiences, and the standards they set for themselves.

While these factors may contribute to poor self-esteem, you can still play an important role in helping your daughter feel better about herself. When you hear her make a negative comment about herself, call attention to it and point out things that she should feel good about, such as close friends, a supportive family, good grades, or athletic successes.

Recognizing and modifying negative thoughts about herself, making a positive contribution (such as volunteering), exercising regularly, and adjusting unrealistic expectations that she has set for herself are just a few strategies that may boost your daughter's self-esteem.

Parents can provide honest praise whenever it's called for. Just remember to be attentive to your own style of criticism — try to keep it constructive.

In some cases, a child may need the help of a mental health professional to build healthy, positive self-esteem. If you're concerned about your daughter's self-esteem, talk to her doctor or a therapist with training in pediatric mental health issues.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: January 2013

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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