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Building self-esteem

Photo: We develop our self-esteem from a young age

Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves – our feelings of self-worth and value which has a direct impact on our confidence i.e. how we measure our ability to achieve. It’s not fixed, but varies according to how we’re feeling, who we are with, and what we are doing.

Self-esteem is like a personal generator – you stoke it up when you are feeling low by doing things you know will make you feel good. People with low self-esteem look to others to stoke them up, rather than themselves.

How we develop self-esteem

We develop our self-esteem from a young age from our main caregivers who show us esteem and value by their responses to our infant communication. We believe in ourselves if others have given us reason to believe we’re worth caring for – they demonstrate to us that we’re esteemed. So self-esteem is nurtured rather than something we’re born with.

Good communication is key

Research differs as to whether deaf children with deaf parents have higher self-esteem than deaf children with hearing parents. What is clear is that the level of communication, as well as how full and successful this is, has a big impact on the child’s self-esteem. So having good communication with your child is the important thing, no matter what form that takes.

Tips for success in building self-esteem

Build your deaf child’s sense of self-worth and confidence – don’t underestimate your child because they are deaf. Here are some tips to help:

  • Involve your deaf child in activities such as swimming, cycling, music, dance, sports, art to build their confidence.
  • Help them develop a sense of responsibility – show them you know they are good at certain things and ask for their help with them. Trust them and try not to hover over them when they are doing something.
  • Help them find their own solutions – listen to their difficulties with full attention and avoid offering advice and solutions. Instead support them to problem solve and trust them to sort things out for themselves, with you there if they need you.
  • Encourage them to help others – even very young children love to be helpful.
  • Encourage them to be open and honest with their feelings – it’s OK for them to show their feelings in ways that don’t hurt others.
  • Be their role model – your children model themselves on you. 

Reflect on your day

Use these questions as a guide to reflect on how you progress in developing your deaf child’s self-esteem each day.

  • Have I helped them feel good about themselves today?
  • Have I shown that I have understood their feelings or their point of view on anything today?
  • Have I shown any interest in, or asked about, anything they have done today?
  • Have I listened to them giving full attention at least once?
  • Will they think I am on their side?

Look after your own needs

Much of parenting skills centre on the child's behaviour, however it’s also important to realise what an important role we play being parents. It’s vital to recognise this and take care of our own wellbeing. So remember to value yourself as well by doing things that nurture you. Give yourself some time each day – a walk or run, a paper or magazine, a nice bath, food you like rather than the children’s menu.

Looking after your own needs will ultimately make you feel better able to cope and a happier parent to be around.