At any age it is important to feel good about yourself, to like yourself. This is called self-esteem. High self-esteem happens when you experience positive feelings-feeling like you belong and feeling like you are in control of your life. We all need to know it's ok to feel special.

Self-esteem is a feeling that is partly determined by what others say about us, what they say to us and how they treat us. So, we affect each other's self-esteem.

Parents are one of the most powerful influences on the development of a child's self-esteem. Building children's self-esteem begins at birth. Children hear many messages about themselves-who they are, what they are-from those in their life. Stop and think about the messages your children are hearing.

Self-esteem is a feeling that influences how your child will cope. It influences how your child will handle life's situations. It is normal for self-esteem to go up and down when changes occur in life. It is important for youth to feel that they can change their self-esteem when they are feeling low. The same holds true for you. A parent with high self-esteem feels more confident in handling the challenges of child rearing.

Here are some suggestions to help build your children's self-esteem:

  1. Reward children. Give praise, recognition, a special privilege or increased responsibility for a job well done. Emphasize the good things they do, not the bad.
  2. Take their ideas, emotions, and feelings seriously. Don't belittle them saying, "You'll grow out of it" or "It's not as bad as you think".
  3. Define limits and rules clearly, and enforce them. Allow leeway for your children within these limits.
  4. Be a good role model. Let your children know that you feel good about yourself. Also let them see that you too can make mistakes and can learn from them.
  5. Teach your children how to deal with time and money. Help them spend time wisely and budget their money carefully.
  6. Have reasonable expectations for your children. Help them to set reachable goals so they can achieve success.
  7. Help your children develop tolerance toward those with different values, backgrounds, and norms. Point out other people's strengths.
  8. Give your children responsibility. They will feel useful, and valued.
  9. Be available. Give support when children need it.
  10. Show them that what they do is important to you. Talk with them about their activities and interests. Go to their games, parents' day at school, drama presentations, and award ceremonies.
  11. Express your values, but go beyond "do this" or "I want you to do that". Describe the experience that determined your values, the decisions you made to accept certain beliefs, the reasons behind your feelings.
  12. Spend time together. Share favorite activities.
  13. Discuss problems without placing blame or commenting on a child's character. If children know that there is a problem but don't feel attacked, they are more likely to help look for a solution.
  14. Use phrases that build self-esteem, such as "Thank you for helping" or "That was an excellent idea!" Avoid phrases that hurt self-esteem: "Why are you so stupid?"; "How many times have I told you?"
  15. Show how much you care about them. Hug them. Tell them they are terrific and that you love them.

If your child or you are struggling with self-esteem problems, you may want to talk with a family member, a friend, school staff, clergy, or a professional counselor. (See COUNSELING, p. 25).

Boys and Girls Club of Geneva
Recreational activities are provided as a way to build relationships with children with the goal of enhanced youth development.

Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes
Various counseling and educational programs, including parenting programs.

Clifton Springs Area YMCA
The YMCA provides a variety of activities for families and children, including summer programs. No youth membership is charged.

Family Counseling Service of the Finger Lakes
(315)789-2613 or (877)789-2613 toll free
Individual counseling, family counseling, play therapy, sexual abuse assessment and treatment, Hispanic youth groups.

Finger Lakes Council, Boy Scouts of America
Organizes Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting and Explorer organizations in the Finger Lakes area.

First United Methodist Church of Canadaigua Youth Group
Recreation program for teens on Saturdays from 3:30-5 p.m. and other events as scheduled. All are welcome.

Geneva Family YMCA
Provide recreational opportunities including swimming, gymnastics, leaders club, summer camps, after-school programs, sports leagues and wellness programs.

Greater Canandaigua Family YMCA
Many activities are offered such as swimming, basketball, before- and after-school child care, and a teen center.

Seven Lakes Girl Scout Council
Organizes Girl Scout activities in a 13-county area including Ontario County.

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