Raising children is difficult! Not only do you need to make sure your little ones are healthy, educated and safe, but you also have to worry about their mental health and self-esteem. It’s a minefield.

Many parents struggle with how to identify and approach issues related to their children’s self-esteem, however, educational psychologist and Dove Self-Esteem Project partner, Dr Tshepiso Matentjie says an open relationship with your children is the key to understanding and helping kids build a healthy relationship with themselves.

“There is no perfect formula to building your child’s self-esteem, each child expresses themselves differently. The only way to help your child is to talk to them, understand how they communicate and find a way to relate to them as individuals,” she says.

Related: Here’s how the “perfect parent” myth keeps you from being the best parent YOU can be

Giving your child thicker skin

Bullying is a reality for all of us in one form or another. Whether it’s a hurtful comment, body shaming or jokes made at your expense, bullying can seriously affect your child’s self-image. However, negative comments are a part of life; instead of trying to remove all negatively from your child’s life, you need to teach them to deal with these comments.

WIN a R 2,000 Woolworths Voucher

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

“People – both adults and children – influence your child in how they speak to them and how they speak about themselves. When children become aware of themselves and their appearance, they also become aware of how they are seen by others. Your job as a parent is not to try to convince your child that their appearance is acceptable to others, but rather that they should accept themselves with or without the approval of others. They might look a certain way and that is ok,” says Dr Tshepiso.

If someone points out your child’s freckles, curly hair or any other feature, don’t try and convince your kid that they don’t actually have freckles or curly hair. Rather help them accept that it’s part of who they are.

Related: Stressed about managing your child’s behaviour? Here are 4 things you need to know

What if you struggle to communicate with your child?

Parent-child relationships are different and while some parents can be their child’s best friend, others struggle to hold conversations. Dr Tshepiso says that although it’s important to build a healthy relationship with your child, being a good parent does not automatically mean your child will be comfortable talking to you openly.

“If you don’t have an open relationship with your child, you might not be the person they come to with their concerns. Having another adult you both trust in the picture can help you understand each other better and also ensure that your child gets information and support from a caring and responsible adult,” she says.

How to recognise a child with low self-esteem

Children are different and react differently to situations. Dr Tshepiso says it is important to know and understand your child so that you can spot changes in their behaviour and attitude and have insight into what may have caused it. Here are some signs that your child may be suffering from low self-esteem.

  • Being overly accommodating – We all want polite children and try to teach them to share with others, however, if you notice your child giving in to what others want more than usual and not asserting themselves, this may be a red flag for low self-esteem.
  • Overly competitive or aggressive – children who suddenly compete unnecessarily or seek attention by being aggressive.
  • Giving into peer pressure easily – emulating uncharacteristic behaviour from those around them.
  • Withdrawing from social activities – a child may make excuses, including faking being sick. Children who cannot express emotional pain may claim physical pain instead.
  • Negative self-talk – constantly saying negative things about their appearance and ability.

What to do if you think your child has low self-esteem

Raising kids with healthy self-esteem is one of your most important tasks as a parent. If you think your child is struggling, you need to address it as soon as possible.

The Dove Self-Esteem Project has amazing resources for parents looking for ways to improve their kids’ self-esteem. From cyberbullying to positive self-talk, it’s a great place to start if you want to find out more about the topic.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to get professional help, especially when it comes to our kids! If you see that your children need help with their self-esteem, contact an educational or child psychologist and nip the problem in the bud ASAP.