Healthy Kids    

Improving Self Esteem in Children

Janne Dooley, a psychotherapist from New Paltz, counsels parents to improve their own self esteem to help their children. “I want to help parents to be able to have a secure connection with their child, to help their child develop their unique self,” she said. “Many times, parents have difficulty doing that because they have dreams or wishes that are different from who their child wants to be.”

“A lot of what I work with is the acceptance of the true self of the child,” said Dooley.


Dooley said she often asks the parent to introduce themselves as their child. “I tell them to be mindful of their child, notice what they feel in their own body. That’s what the child is struggling with. If your child is difficult to raise, do it lovingly. You might be able to be more understanding, rather than angry. Be your child,” she said. “The more we experience the other person, what he feels, the more we can understand him. With understanding comes compassion and with that you have the secure connection that fosters self esteem.”


What is most important, said Dooley, is secure attachment. “Knowing your parents are present no matter what, for example, whether you’re gay or straight, or play sports well or not. It’s unconditional love that counts. Also the message I want to give parents is you’re okay not to be perfect.”


Debbie Fendt of Wallkill says she is careful of what she says about herself in front of her children, Ronny, age 16, and Rachel, Age. 12.  “Self esteem for a child starts with the way the adults in their lives see themselves,” she said. “I’m not going to say ‘I’m so fat,’ or ‘I hate this about me,’ putting myself down in front of them.”


Debbie Fendt of Wallkill praises her children whenever she can.

Debbie praises her children even if they try and do not succeed. “They can look back and say ‘I did my best’ and feel good about it without second guessing what they did or did not do.” Like any proud Mom, Debbie displays her children’s school work. “I’ve even worn the macaroni necklaces and cardboard jewelry the kids make in school,” she said. “I always say things like ‘I liked it today when you …’ or ‘thanks for doing or saying …’ or ‘that was really helpful to me and I really appreciate what you did.’”


Debbie says she tells her children that it’s okay to feel bad, sad or angry, “because feelings just are what they are. I too have learned that feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are.”


Debbie and her husband Ron often plan vacations that include the children, especially camping trips, the children’s favorite. Camp fires, miniature golf and paddling boats are some of the family friendly activities that they all enjoy together. “I always tell my kids how happy I am that they are in my life,” said Debbie.


Anita Manley is a freelance writer living in Newburgh.

To find out Anita Manley's experience with self esteem, click here.