Low Self-Esteem and Child Separation Anxiety: What You Need to Know!

By: KC Smith

Low self-esteem is one of the predictors of Separation Anxiety Disorder, so fostering a strong sense of self-worth is vital in helping your child pass through his normal phase of Separation Anxiety. There are many ways to help bolster a child’s self-esteem, including noticing and commenting on his accomplishments. Giving a child positive feedback is one of the best ways of communicating what you want. For example, saying, “Thank you for coming here so quickly when I called you,” not only makes the child feel good, but it reinforces the appropriate behavior.

Separation Anxiety creates a negative cycle for children, as they are liable to feel more anxious as a result of low self-esteem and may, in turn, feel bad about being so anxious. That is one of the reasons parents need to strive not to belittle children for their Separation Anxiety. Rather than explaining to the child what he “should” be feeling, let him know that you recognize what he is feeling. Reassure him that you will return and that he is safe in the environment. This self-esteem issue may grow if a child is receiving treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder or is missing a lot of school as a result of these fearful feelings. Again, the parent needs to reassure the child and find ways to improve feelings of self-worth.

There are a variety of activities that can be used to raise self-esteem. Simply taking notice of something the child has done well and complimenting him on it can be helpful. Children with low self-esteem often find it difficult to accept compliments or to recognize their own positive traits, so the adults need to help them discover good things about themselves. Teaching the child to use positive self talk can help him to better recognize and accept those good traits. It is also helpful to teach him new skills that are age appropriate, so he sees his ability to be successful at new tasks. You should, of course, offer encouragement through each stage of the learning process and show your pride as he accomplishes his goals.

Giving your child an opportunity to make his own decisions can also improve his self-esteem. Allow him a voice in making decisions, and respect the choice he makes. Ask him questions like, “Would you like to wear your red shirt or your blue shirt.” When he answers, agree with his choice by saying something like, “Yes, this red shirt is very pretty.” You might give older children a choice for dinner and let them help you prepare the meal. The theme here, of course, is to praise your child for his accomplishments. Make sure you do it realistically, though. Children have a way of knowing when you are praising them just for the sake of it, and you also don’t want to give them unrealistic expectations. It is great to commend your child for the A he got on his spelling test, but if he is a B student, don’t tell him he’s so smart that he will be getting all A’s. When his next test comes back with a B, he will be disappointed in his effort.

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