Self-esteem or self confidence is essentially the worth or value a person assigns to themselves. It's related to how capable they feel. This is based on numerous factors, such as their abilities, their relationships, and how they are perceived by the world around them. Positive self-esteem is an important factor in living a healthy, successful life, so it's a great thing to start fostering it in your child as early as possible.
In particular, children with learning disorders, attention problems, or developmental delays are often at risk of developing low-self esteem. Help your special needs child thrive by setting the groundwork for them to build healthy self-confidence.
Praise Their Efforts
Verbal praise helps your child know that they have done something good, and even encourages them to keep it up. But there's a caveat: be sure to praise during times when your child has put in effort and you know they tried hard versus when they're doing something they've always been good at. For example, if they tried to tie the their shoe but fell short, you might say, “Looks like you've almost got it. You're learning so quickly!”
Play to Their Strengths
Kids feel good about themselves when their natural talents and abilities are on display. If your child is particularly skilled at something, give them free reign to explore and develop this interest. Playing an instrument, making art, or playing a sport are all great hobbies to pursue. This will allow for them to be more aware of what they are good at, and what they have to offer.
Encourage Them to Try New Things
Just as your child should celebrate the areas they’re already good at, it also helps for them to occasionally step out of their comfort zones. When children take in new challenges, even really small ones, they gain more confidence in their abilities. Is there something simple that you usually do for your special needs child, like making a sandwich for lunch? Coach them to do it for themselves, then praise whatever effort they put in.
Help Them Create Reasonable Goals
Goals are a great way to let your child feel they have control, which is great for building confidence. It's a good idea to gently guide your child, but to allow them to decide what they want their goals to be. Make sure these goals are achievable (not too easy) and set on a specific timeline to give your child the best chance of meeting them.
Surround Them with Support
It takes a village to raise a child and help them develop positive self-esteem. Inspire family members, friends, and teachers to offer your child deserved praise and support. Also, help connect them with same-age peers who can accept and appreciate your child for their unique quirks and abilities. Having a group of people to cheer them on is paramount for their confidence.
Self-esteem can be tricky even for children without special needs. As your child grows and develops their interests, they will probably encounter obstacles. With your guidance, they'll defeat those obstacles and come out feeling better about their abilities.