Coping Skills

How to Build Confidence in Kids: Self-Esteem Activities for Kids & Teens

Have you been wondering how to build confidence and positive self-esteem in your kids? There are lots of easy ways for parents and educators to help children boost their confidence. There are also plenty of self-esteem activities for kids and teens that are fun and engaging.

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Building positive self-esteem and confidence is important to the child and teen development. It helps them become more emotionally resilient and cope better with stress and life challenges.  But, how can we build confidence in our kids?

Self-esteem activities for kids can help us with this task. But, in order to identify the best way to help your child/teen (or student), it is important first to understand what self-esteem is.

Table of Contents:

  • Self-concept and self-esteem definitions
  • Exploring self-esteem
  • How to build confidence in kids
  • Self-esteem activities for kids and teens

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Self-concept and self-esteem definitions

Self-concept and self-esteem are two closely related concepts. Self-concept is the representation we construct of ourselves, after assessing our competence in different areas in our lives (interpersonal, sports, work, etc.). In simple words, self-concept is what we think about ourselves

Self-esteem develops in parallel to self-concept. Self-esteem is the evaluation we make of ourselves, and it can range from low to high self-esteem (“I´m worthless” – “I´m worthy”). Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves and our personal characteristics. It is greatly influenced by the evaluation we make of the different aspects that comprise our self-concept.

Exploring self-esteem and its domains

In order to understand a bit better this abstract concept, I will delve into Susan Harter´s extensive research on self-esteem. Harter has developed widely-used self-perception scales for children and adolescents. In her work, she identifies two coexisting categories of self-evaluation:

  • global self-worth (an overall self-esteem)
  • domain-specific evaluation in different areas (for example, schoolwork performance)

The self-concept domains that Harter´s self-perception scales for children explore are specifically:

  • scholastic competence (e.g. doing well at school work, finishing schoolwork quickly)
  • social competence (e.g. knowing how to make friends, knowing what to do to be accepted by others)
  • athletic competence (e.g. ability to do well at sports)
  • physical appearance (e.g. being happy with one´s looks)
  • behavioral conduct (e.g. degree to which a kid likes the way he/she behaves, avoids getting into trouble)

As kids grow older and become adolescents, new relevant domains of self-evaluation need to be considered:

  • friendship (which is different from social competence – this would be the ability to make close friends)
  • romantic appeal (e.g. finding that they are interesting and fun on a date)
  • job competence (this one is very dependent on the social environment -while lots of teenagers do part-time jobs in US, it is not the case for other countries)

Are all these domains equally important for my kid’s self-esteem? Which specific self-concept domains contribute more to one’s overall sense of global self-worth?

Our kid’s overall self-esteem doesn´t come from just adding the level of performance in each of the self-concept domains. There is an overall evaluation of how much they like themselves as a person. Each domain of their self-concept contributes in a different way. High competence in a domain highly regarded by a teen (for example, physical appearance) will be a good predictor of high self-esteem. High competence in an area that teen does not consider important will have less impact.

Related reading: The Construction of the Self: Developmental and Sociocultural Foundations, by Susan Harter

Tips on How to Build your Child’s Self Esteem:

Make them feel good and valued:

1. Provide them with opportunities to feel good and happy, surrounded by people with whom they feel safe and happy.

2. Tell them you always love them (even when you don´t like what they do).

3. Show interest in the topics and activities that interest them.

4. Ask for their views on different topics (TV series, new decoration for a room) which will show them their opinion is important

5. Nurture and support their interests.

Make them feel competent:

6. Provide them with opportunities to experience success. Don´t do everything for them. If they need help, provide it, but let them finish things on their own

7. Regularly praise their achievements, effort and progress

8. Teach them a new skill.

9. Enroll them in a new activity that will expand their set of skills (and interest them).

10. Let them show you how something works (like a new app, a computer program they use at school).

Foster their Independence:

11. Assign them their own age-appropriate responsibilities (or activities appropriate to their developmental stage). As a special needs parent, we try to provide opportunities aligned with our child´s capabilities.

12. Provide them with opportunities to make choices on some activities.

Let them know how the real world works so that they don´t have unrealistic expectations and build resilience:

13. Let them know about people´s reality. Help them understand that everybody has happy and unhappy times, achievements and failures.

14. Emphasize how we all have strengths and weaknesses.

15. Share your mistakes, and model positive responses to them.

16. Help them understand how we learn from mistakes. When something doesn´t work the way they expected, discuss with them how they could have done it differently and what they learned from the experience.

17. Teach them how hard work helps us achieve our objectives.

Teach Social Skills. It may be interesting to help your child improve a range of social skills, for example:

18. How to request somebody to stop a behavior.

19. Problem-solving in social situations.

20. Conversational skills.

Work on the cognitive dimension of self-esteem

21. Help them reframe negative thinking that may lead to low self-esteem.

Teach them skills that will make them more “academically competent”

22. Teach them study techniques (time management, setting priorities, making a summary, looking for key ideas in a text)

Self-Esteem Activities for Kids and Teens

This is a “work-in-progress” list with some self-esteem activities for kids and teens. I will keep adding new activities and ideas as we work through them at home:

Some Feel Good / Positive Self-Esteem Activities for Kids

  • Write a gratitude journal– it will focus your kid´s attention on all the positive things in his/her life
  • Set up an achievement wall- frame happy moments pictures and the achievements that make them proud (this option looks gorgeous, I wouldn’t mind converting it into a wall of achievements)
  • Prepare a photo book of their passions, interests, and people
  • Practice positive affirmations
  • Keep a diary of achievements
  • Set goals and make a plan to achieve them

Self-Esteem Games / Social Skills Games

Self-Esteem Activity Books

Independence Activities

  • Be responsible for your own house chores (we always talk about age-appropriate activities, but I would rather talk about developmentally appropriate chores, as I´m a special needs Mom and it always depresses me to read how many “age-appropriate” chores we don’t yet achieve):
    • Pack your school backpack
    • Prepare your lunch box
    • Prepare your own little travel suitcase
    • Walk the dog
    • Run errands

Problem-Solving

  • Traffic Light Worksheet – this is a tool we use to help self-regulation, providing kids with simple problem-solving tips (red light: identify the problem I want to solve, yellow light: generate potential solutions, green light: choose and implement)

Share with us your self-esteem tips and activities for kids! ♥

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