ADHD in Boys vs. Girls

ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is one of the most common mental health disorders diagnosed in children. This is a neurodevelopmental disorder that’s symptoms often consist of difficulty concentrating, difficulty staying still, and difficulty staying organized. This disorder is often noticed in children by about age 7 and much more noticeable by teachers at school where there are numerous expectations to sit in your seat, speak when you’re called on, and focus on lessons and assignments. However, there are circumstances in which people are not formally diagnosed until they are adults.

There are significant gender differences in the presentation of ADHD. However, it’s important to be aware of, that just as with any other mental disorder, two people can have the same issue and it can look differently and be treated in the same or different way.

According to the CDC, boys are 3 times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. This doesn’t mean that boys are necessarily more afflicted by ADHD, but that the symptoms present in much different ways. With girls, the symptoms are often more subtle and harder to identify.

Boys tend to show more of the externalized symptoms such as running, physical aggression, blurting out or nonstop talking, and greater impulsivity. Girls however, tend to show more internalized symptoms such as inattentiveness, verbal aggression, and low self esteem. Due to girls showing fewer physical behavioral problems, they are often overlooked and not referred for an evaluation or treatment. This can lead to difficulties later on in life such as problems in school, difficulty in social settings and difficulty with other peer relationships. Because girls internalize their feelings of frustration, pain, and anger more, they are at a greater risk for other mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Boys typically externalize their emotions and receive feedback for behavioral issues.

Girls more often display the inattentiveness side of the disorder, while boys display the hyperactive part of the disorder. It is easier to identify the hyperactive behaviors at home and school because a child won’t be able to sit still, continuously interrupts or doesn’t stop talking, and generally acts impulsively which at times can be dangerous. Inattentive behaviors are more subtle. The child is not as likely to be disruptive in class, but will often forget assignments and seem “spacey.” Unfortunately, this can be mistaken for laziness or a learning disability.

ADHD can also be misdiagnosed in boys. Because we traditionally see boys are more energetic, if they’re running around and acting out, we may attribute it to just a headstrong/hyper boy. Not all boys are hyperactive though. It is even less likely to properly diagnose a boy with ADHD if he has more of the inattentive symptoms and is not disruptive.

Regardless of gender, it is critical to treat ADHD as soon as possible. As children mature and become older, symptoms do become less intense and severe, but can still lead to numerous issues and affect multiple areas of a person’s life such as school, work, and relationships. They are also more likely to develop other issues such as anxiety and depression. They may not be diagnosed with a learning disability, but it is typical to fall behind in subjects due to disorganization and distraction. Getting a prompt diagnosis is helpful in order to begin treatment. Medication management is very successful for many children and adults, as well as behavioral therapy to work on organization and maintaining focus when conducting work.

Gaslighting your Child?

Children and parents are not perfect. Parents will make mistakes, just like every other human. No matter how insightful, well-adjusted, or how much we work on ourselves, we can never completely avoid our negative traits. And therefore, we can never completely shield children from our negative traits either.

Gaslighting is a specific kind of manipulation in which the victim often is left questioning their own reality, memory, and perceptions. This is considered one of the most detrimental forms of emotional and psychological abuse. Typically, this manipulation is used in abusive relationships in order for the abuser to gain more power and control. This tactic is generally used over a period of time so as to gradually undermine a victims mindset of what is right and wrong and forcing them to be dependent on the other person’s thinking and feelings.

The terms “Gaslighting” comes from the play Gas Light in 1938 in which a husband turns down the gas powered lights in their homes every night and then vehemently denies that he did when she notices the change and asks. The husband achieves power and control.

You will often find the act of gaslighting in correlation with people diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is a disorder in which a person has grandiose ideas of him/herself and thrives for constant affirmation and validation. This is achieved through gaslighting. Because of their own psychological impairments, many times the gaslighter is not fully aware of their own actions.

Graphic Credit @themindgeek

As adults, it can be difficult to realize that we have been sucked into this cycle of demeaning. Bring awareness to how you feel and validate your own feelings. Believe in your gut reaction that something isn’t right. If you feel comfortable and safe, start using some of the phrases suggested below.

Graphic Credit @themindgeek

Now what about children? How on earth could we possible gaslight our own children. Honestly, in much of the same way. Remember, nobody is perfect (and you don’t have to be a narcissist), but there are a few things that we may do out of frustration that can be more detrimental to our child’s self esteem, confidence, and emotional growth, if we do not take the moment to acknowledge what we are doing. Some of the general side effects include irritability, aggressiveness, anxiety, rigidity, paranoia, and distrust of others.

What can happen: Parents will gaslight their children when they themselves feel overwhelmed and not being aware of how they have been triggered themselves, and set up triggers for their child to become upset. This happens all the time, like if you know what you’re going to say is going to upset your child. But the difference is that lack of awareness around self, and when the child does become upset, they are NOT validated in their own feelings, but instead one of the following:

6 Signs that You’re Gaslighting Your Child

  1. You exaggerate every conflict: everything your child does wrong causes you to feel extremely upset, even if the issue isn’t as large. For example, if your child lies about brushing your teeth vs. your teenager lying about stealing the car, both make you fly off the handle. This can cause children to question themselves and “walk on egg shells” around you. It has the potential for children to lie or hide things more often for fear of the verbal putdowns or explosive outbursts. They become confused about what’s going to set you off.
  2. Inflexibility: It’s normal to not let everything slide, but this is the extreme. No matter what happens, you refuse to allow for any changes in the daily routine. For whatever reason, the need to be in control and make sure things are on a schedule is pertinent to your ability to feel calm and happy. However, the likelihood that a toddler goes down for a nap at the exact same time everyday is rare. The schedule often also often revolves around what is best for the parent vs what is best for the child. Constantly snapping or becoming upset creates a lack of esteem and confidence in a child and forces them to disregard what naturally feels best for themselves, and focus on what is best for your mood.
  3. Mocking behavior/abandoning when upset: When your child is upset and crying, you act like you are upset and crying but become flippant about it as well. You ignore your child’s cries when they become more intense and say things like, “I don’t know why you’re so upset”, or “You’re doing this to yourself.” You may also completely leave when your child is upset, or when they become increasingly upset. This is for a personal benefit rather than an attempt to calm a child down.
  4. Over-asserting Power: At some point, children become more independent and want to be with their own friends. For some parents, this is more difficult and instead of encouragement, there is a general dismissal of your child’s ability to function without you. There are constant reminders of what they can and cannot do. You say “no” in order to keep them close not for a logistical and logical reason. You may talk poorly about their friends, or discourage them from trying new activities because they might not make the team or be good enough. These things isolate your child and further deepen feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem.
  5. Insisting that you know your child better than they know themselves: Of course children don’t always know what is best for them, but children are much more aware of what they are feeling even if they can’t articulate it. If you’re gaslighting your child, when they are upset, you attribute their feelings to something outside of yourself. It can’t possibly be your own fault, and you can’t have anything to do with them being sad or angry. You will trivialize how your child feels, their memories, and perceptions which is the ultimate definition of gaslighting.
  6. Never Apologizing: Apologies are unacceptable with gaslighting. They are a surrender of power and control which is equivalent to little or no worth. You may feel that you never really need to apologize and more often wait for your child to come to you after a conflict regardless of whomever is at fault. A child will stop trying after a while, build resentment, and develop a mistrusting relationship with other adults. They may have difficulty when they think someone is mad at them and become anxious to fix the problem.

If you notice these patterns within your family and self, seek counseling to try and create greater self awareness.

It’s not uncommon for all of us to have become frustrated to the point of engaging in one of these signs. Whether it be waiting to apologize, or saying no because you’re just unhappy today. It happens. But when it becomes a consistent pattern of behavior, that is when children will begin to develop varying difficulties, because if it’s a consistent pattern, it’s gaslighting.

2020 Pandemic and Mental Health – World Mental Health Day

Every year since 1992, October 10th (tomorrow) has been identified as a day to recognize mental health. The main objective is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to initiate efforts in support of mental health.

A few of the previous themes include suicide prevention, young people and mental health in a changing world, mental health in the workplace, and psychological first aid. This year, the theme is anticipated to be, mental health for all. In light of the events of this current year, more than ever, the need for mental health awareness, support, and abolishment of stigma should be supported and advocated for.

When we are living in a global pandemic, it can be difficult to recognize everything that we have truly gone through. That’s because we are living it! We are surviving over thriving every day in an effort to maintain physical, social, emotional, and mental stability. And it’s truly hard! In this instance, we are more separated from one another in terms of physical closeness, but across the globe we have so much in common.

We are physically separated. People have lost their loved ones, sometimes in tragic ways. The amount and length of isolation has led to depression, and the economic downfall has led to feelings of hopelessness, increased stress, and anxiety. People have a lack of purpose, reliving the same day with the same guidelines for weeks and months at a time with limited change and hope insight that things will ever go back to “normal.” The amount of time spent on social media and the impact of the news has further isolated people and affected their feelings of stress as the loss of control over their own lives becomes more and more evident.

Without a global pandemic, and just one main stressor, people can react and cope in ways that align with a mental health diagnosis. Now imagine experiencing all of these major stressors! A family member dies, you’ve been laid off, you are forced to move, you become sick yourself, and the pressure puts strain on your own relationships. This is not an unlikely or less than plausible scenario for many. Coping skills included talking to other people, engaging in social activities, going to the gym, pushing through a structured and organized day, and suddenly that’s gone. It is no wonder we are in a mental health crisis. That suicide rates have gone up. That children are experiencing more symptoms of depression and stress.

However, people have also come out stronger. They have been challenged to reinvent their lives. They have been triggered to increase their focus on their own mental health as a way to cope. We have altered what the state of normal really is. And while it’s uncomfortable, may have been able to achieve it. Some days are better than others for sure!

Please remember, that here in the United States, there is wide variety of how “normal” is identified. Just because you are a United States citizen, doesn’t mean that you have access to affordable housing, food, or an income. Everyone has had to adjust and cope in their own ways. I urge you to recognize that this pandemic reaches outside of your own neighborhood, city, state, and country. Some countries have had fewer resources, or had to adapt with basic needs not having been met.

Mental health services should be available for all across the world and be uniquely made for all the differences. There is no one size fits all in terms of mental health and how to treat it, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be addressed at all.

Practice your gratitude and recognize your own achievements up to today. Applaud yourself for whatever moment you are at, and reach out when you need support and help. Mental health has been affected by all this year, and the more we recognize and advocate for services and normalize conditions, the better we can all be.

Depression in Children vs. Adults

Depression is a mood disorder that results in persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities. Depression effects how you feel, think, and behave, and can have effects on your physical, social, mental, and emotional life.

Depression is not just a bout of the blues.

Depression is considered clinically significant when symptoms persist for two weeks or more. Other symptoms include a change in appetite, change in sleep patterns (typically feeling exhausted no matter how much sleep you get), increased irritability or anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.

No two cases of depression ever look exact and the causes vary as well. What’s even more interesting, is that children and teenagers do not typically express or experience depression in the same way. This can make it more difficult for parents, caregivers, and adults to recognize that a child or teenager is depressed and keep them from receiving the proper treatment in a timely manner.

Symptoms of depression are expansive and vary. It is not uncommon to not physically see these symptoms in another person.

When identifying depression in children and teenagers, there are a few differences to look for. Please remember, that a teenager or child can exhibit all of the symptoms found in adults, but that in many cases, the symptoms below are more common.

Any marked change in your child should be noted. Depression, regardless of age has an impact on social functioning and is probably the easiest to decipher when trying to understand if someone you know is exhibiting signs of depression.

Regardless of age, all symptoms and feelings should be taken seriously. Call your doctor or child’s pediatrician. In some situations, medication can be extremely helpful. They can also help make a referral for therapy services. If you, your child, or someone you know is exhibiting signs of depression, please reach out! Email, call, or visit our website. You can find all our contact information on the home page of this site as well!

What’s Your Style of Communication?

Communication is key in any relationship, so of course it’s going to be important when it comes to your family. Knowing your own style of communication, your partner’s style, and teaching your children acceptable and appropriate ways to communicate are just a few points of reason.

Whether it be with a friend, child, parent, or partner, not understanding or misunderstanding what someone said is the easiest way to instigate an argument.

First thing you should know, is that communication is not so much about the words we are saying, but how we are saying them. Tone and volume are everything. You can say the word “okay” several times with a different emotion each time, and more than likely, everyone will know what you mean and how you feel. Even more important than your tone of voice are your facial expressions and subsequent body language. Not only after someone has processed all that, do we recognize the words that someone says.

There are several ways to break down communication, but for the purposes of this post, we will talk about the following four:

Passive, Passive-Agressive, Agressive, and Assertive.

If we need or want something we should be assertive. But how can we respect our own emotions, be respectful, and get our own needs met?

This is a skill taken from Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The acronym is F.A.S.T.

This is a interpersonal skill used to help achieve appropriate communication, especially in times when emotions have the potential to run high.

Take the time to model this skill for you child, and practice it yourself. The time needed to practice can save you time in an argument later on.

Try it out!

How to Help Your Child/Teen Who Self Harms

What is self harm? Simply, it’s any behavior that causes harm to a person in attempt to deal with overwhelming emotions or thoughts to feel better. Self harm is not limited to just cutting oneself (although that is one of the more common methods). Self harm can include cutting, scratching oneself, burning, biting, picking skin, or banging head. Depending on the age of the child, there are certain behaviors that may be more common.

WHO engages in self harm? Anyone. Just because someone is depressed or anxious, or has difficulties with managing emotions in general, does not mean they will engage in self harm.

WHY self injure? Reasons most often include self injury serving as a distraction from intense emotional pain, or as an attempt to feel something when a person feels numb. Self injury can also be a way of communication as it often elicits empathy and concern. When a person does not know how else to ask for these things, they may injure themselves in order to communicate those needs.

WHERE self injure? Most often, self injury occurs in private and in areas on a body that are easily concealed with clothing. So, while there are situations that someone may use self injury to communicate, it is extremely common for this behavior to remain hidden as it can cause emotional relief, but also shame and guilt.

What do you do as a parent? It can be extremely stressful and difficult to know that your child is distressed and taking that distress out on themselves. Your reaction may be to ask a lot of questions in order to find out why this is happening. Check out the do’s and don’t below to give you some guidance on how to best help. Not included is seeking out professional help. Self injury can indicate a deeper mental health problem, and may require specific types of therapy such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) or Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

You can also utilize the crisis text number. Text a Crisis Counselor at 741471 or call (518)560-4277 to get connected to a therapist at Freedom First Psychological Services.

Autism in Boys vs Girls

Autism Spectrum Disorder has several varying criteria. The intensity of these criteria varies from person to person, which is why we identify Autism as being on a spectrum. Most mental health disorders we could rationalize as having varying intensities, but Autism is unique.

You can find a complete list of criteria in the DSM V or by clicking on this link for the website Autism Speaks https://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-diagnosis-criteria-dsm-5

For a general overview, these are a few of the symptoms you may see.

  • Deficits in verbal and non verbal communication such as lack of language, eye contact, or facial expressions.
  • Difficulty understanding other’s verbal and non verbal communications.
  • Repetitive motor movements or speech/sounds.
  • Inflexible adherence to routines (insistence on sameness).
  • Specific and extremely fixated interests.
  • Physically sensitive to varying items including foods, smells, and textures.
Infographic taken from amongsthumans.com

What there is still a serious lack of information on is why these symptoms so often present drastically different in male and females, particularly at a young age. All of these symtptoms can be present in both sexes with similar intensities, but more often, girls are being diagnosed with autism in their early teens/late preteen ages while boys are often diagnosed in early elementary ages or earlier.

In my experience, and based on limited readings, one of the main reasons girls are not diagnosed earlier is because they do not show the same behavioral intensity of symptoms as their male counterparts. In school, teachers will often recognize boys who appear to have hyperactivity or withdrawl and isolation from peers. Young girls in school are more adept to mimicking their neurotypical peers in an effort to fit in. Girls can often make one or two close friendships, but will struggle with emotional outbursts. However, this gets overlooked and sometimes blamed on a social construction that girls are more sensitive and emotional.

Photo Credit to verywellhealth.com

Girls also often have more “socially acceptable” interests than boys and so their fixations are overlooked. However, when probed deeper, we can often see that although the topic may be more acceptable and appear flexible in how often it’s focused on, but the intensity about how much the child likes it and the detail in which the topic is understood can be indicative of higher intensity than originally thought. In younger children, the repetitive behaviors like lining up toys and playing with peers is not often not seen the same in boys and girls, and again the behaviors are milder.

Once girls reach that preteen/adolescent phase though, it becomes harder to hide social problems. Overreactions to tone of voice, lack of self awareness, difficulty with conversations in friend groups, or making friends in general becomes more difficult. Teenage girls can be misdianogsed with social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, or just a rigid Type A teenager. Mostly because they lack a intellectual disability and have some friends, they will continue to go undiagnosed.

It’s important in this situation to just be aware. Just because two children have the same diagnosis, doesn’t mean that it will look the same or benefit from the same interventions.

It’s an interesting topic, and more supports and research is needed to help teachers, parents, and caregivers a like in recognizing the correct diagnosis in a child so that they receive accurate help.

Information taken from Autism Speaks and SPARK for Autism

Siblings of Children with Mental Health Disorders and Disabilities

We spend so much time talking about children with mental health disorders and disabilities that it is sometimes easy to forget their typical developing siblings. We understand high functioning anxiety and depression and know that you can’t always judge a book by its’ cover. We should never assume that just because everything looks good on the outside that there aren’t some difficulties a person is experiencing on the inside. Children who have a sibling who struggles with mental health or a physical disability deal with different kinds of emotions and stress, but are often the best at hiding it.

Often times, we unknowingly rely on the sibling who does not appear to have anything noticeably wrong. Even if we don’t openly ask for them to do anything, we unconsciously expect that they don’t need adults in the same way. We talk about them being mature and able to handle things. We expect them to take care of themselves while we try to figure out how to best help the child whom we can physically see needs help.

Parents and adults a like (teachers in a classroom), feel that guilt that they can’t give every child the same time and attention. We usually know that we aren’t providing the same type of help and support. But don’t beat yourself up too much because it is a necessary thing. Not every child requires the same support and attention. However, when it’s too out of balance, you might start to see different behaviors to achieve the same kind of attention their sibling is getting. This is when we see physical and or verbal acting out or the opposite such as low assertiveness skills. Some children make as little “noise” as possible so they get good grades, stay out of any trouble, and don’t talk about their problems.

A few things that children with siblings who have a mental health disorder or disability struggle with include:

  1. Feeling like they need to be perfect: Many times these children don’t want to cause any more upset. They are often left out of the loop on some level, but know that there is likely anxiety, frustration, and general upset. Therefore, they compensate and try to make things better by doing their best to be completely perfect. They don’t want to be a burden to their parents efforts. Remember, that kids see and hear all things. Logically this leads to stress which can develop into an anxiety disorder.
  2. Difficulty expressing emotions: With typically developing siblings, you expect complaining about each other on a regular basis. This is not the case when one sibling is “typical” and the other is not. Often times, these siblings become masters at squashing their emotions down because they feel as though they “shouldn’t” be upset with their sibling because of whatever disability or disorder they have. So even if their sibling does something they find embarrassing, they no longer say it because adults and even their friends will tell them that it’s mean.
  3. Feeling as though their problems are minimized: It’s easy to disregard an academic or friendship problem when another child is dealing with motor issues or suicidal thoughts. An issue like that from a typically developing sibling will often be brushed off and told something generic like to stay strong and it will pass. These children begin to internalize that their problems aren’t really problems and make them doubt themselves on whether or not to tell people what’s going on if they do feel confused or upset.
  4. Feeling isolated: Having a younger or older sibling is one way kids can identify what they have in common with each other. Children with siblings with disabilities or disorders may not have the same kind of peer group. They may be more hesitant to talk about their siblings in general. They often worry about inviting friends over to their house because they feel unsure of how their friends may react.
  5. Growing up quickly: While children are often kept in the dark, we know they pick up on every little nuance there is. They’ll be able to tell when a conflict is coming or when someone is overtired and frustrated. They’ll rely on themselves to be “perfect” and adapt to a situation that can only be maintained and controlled by adults. However, they’ll often do what they can to be helpful. They’ll learn about things earlier than typical for their own development. And they will apply that. They’ll receive compliments about being mature for their age, but remember that while they may know more, they should still only be expected of what is appropriate.

Check out some of the things that can be done to help support your child. Doing simple things like reading together at bedtime, spending one on one time together, or assisting in a task they don’t necessarily need help with can help children feel reassured, calm, and happy.

The Negative Side of Positivity is Toxic!

You may have heard of the latest trend/buzz words – Toxic Positivity. In short, it’s the generalization of happy optimistic state (sounds good) that results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience. When we disallow for certain feelings, we are actually enforcing a coping skill of denial and repression. These are the skills (in therapy) that we work on so much to change. To feel all your feelings is genuine, and to learn how to express and cope with them takes strength and insight. Sometimes life just sucks, and nobody can have positive vibes all day long.

Why not be positive all the time?

  1. Shame. If we constantly tell people to cover their anger, sadness, frustrations, and pain with a smile, we tell them, they’re not enough. We are saying, do not show weakness to it. You should be able to handle it. Therefore, when a person does have an experience that brings up these emotions, they judge themselves on their ability to handle it. They worry about how they will be perceived by others. This leads to secrets and denial, which undoubtedly leads to shame. It puts all the pain and pressure to handle it on one person and demonizes the idea of asking for help. Because to ask for help means that there is something wrong.
  2. Suppression of Emotions. Suppression of emotions can lead to a lot of physical symptoms. Stomachaches, headaches, and a weakened immune system. Suppression of emotions also tends to lead to a fake persona of ourselves. Think of a teenager who gets good grades, has a lots of friends, but self harms because of feeling so alone. Anxiety and depression rely on suppression of emotions to thrive and take hold. Living a dual life of happiness on the outside and pain on the inside is difficult, and constantly telling ourselves it’s fine and to look on the bright side keeps those difficult emotions down. The ultimate end is when those feelings consume us and become strong enough to no longer ignore.
  3. Isolation. When you’re suppressing your emotions, you lose more connection with yourself. It’s difficult to have a relationship with other people when you don’t allow yourself to be authentic when you’re alone. If we keep things happy and smiling at the surface, it makes it even more difficult for others to connect or relate to us. Everyone has difficulties, but if you stay talking about the weather, nobody will feel comfortable expressing anything deeper.

Check out the chart below to identify how you can avoid toxic positivity, but still reaffirm people and your own authentic self.

5 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Self Esteem

It’s no secret that positive sense of self is linked to better relationships, overall mental and physical health, and general achievement in tasks. So it’s also easy to understand why helping a child develop positive self esteem is so important.

Regardless of whether your child is more sensitive and self critical, or appears confident and outgoing, there are some concrete ways in which to ensure your child develops a strong sense of self. Remember, self confidence and self esteem, while related, are not the same thing. Confidence refers to abilities and is based on external factors. Esteem is based on intrinsic values and ideas and other internal factors.

Before we jump into the ways to build self esteem, lets quickly look at the pitfalls and some reasons children develop lower self esteem.

Disapproving/Preoccupied Authority and Care Givers: When people in authority (teachers, instructors, parents) frequently give negative attention and criticisms, children begin to develop the internal idea that they are not good enough and always failing. When attention lacks, especially in regards to scenarios of achievement, children may start to believe themselves to be unimportant and not worth noticing. A feeling that you are not of concern to anyone fosters thoughts associated with depression such as feeling like a burden. This can lead to a belief that you are supposed to apologize for your mere existence.

Over-Supportive Parents: A child who has been “sheltered” in a way, by not being given the opportunity to have negative experiences, often displays feelings of shame as they get older and are forced to confront negative experiences without a indiscriminate support system. Shame has a tendency to cloud perspective and when a parental vision and everyone’s else vision of a child don’t match, it becomes difficult to trust what’s real and what isn’t. That uncertainty and doubt can cause so much hesitancy and feeling that they’re just not good enough.

Academic Challenges without Support: Low grades are not the problem. The way a child’s parents and teachers respond is the problem. If they are often met with disappointment, questions like “what happened?” or left to figure it out on their own, there is a greater likelihood of internalizing ideas that they are defective. They begin to believe there is something wrong with them, doubt their own intelligence, and be self conscious about expressing their own opinions in fear they are genuinely stupid.

Trauma: Abuse in any form (physical, sexual, or emotional) is one of the most obvious causes of low self esteem. Children (and adults) often accept abuse as something that was somehow their own fault and they were deserving of it. Coping skills for untreated abuse are often experienced out of shame themselves (eating disorders, self injury, acting out etc), so feelings of shame, disappointment, and worthlessness become a part of the inner dialogue leading to low self esteem.

Society and the Media: With the increase in availability to technology, so does the increased ability for children to begin comparing themselves to unrealistic images in the media. Bombardment of all the possible imperfections in physical appearance and their relation to your worth are planting seeds of doubt among children aged younger and younger

Okay. So what can we do?!

  1. Provide clear, but not critical feedback: It can be difficult to talk to children about things they need to improve upon. Criticism, even in the best intentions, is not often understood by children. More often they hear that they’re doing something wrong vs. right. They might feel embarrassed or ashamed to try again. Leave the criticism out and instead focus on what will help and only address that. Things like, “You get more help when you stay after school” vs. “Your grades would improve if you tried harder.”
  2. Help your child to develop a Growth Mindset: Mistakes are a part of life. Sitting with disappointment is difficult, but doing so helps develop distress tolerance and appropriate coping skills as well as resiliency. Teaching your child to accept mistakes and disappointments as opportunities to grow and get better serves them much more over time in terms of their ability to deal with a setback or unexpected change.
  3. Praise approach and efforts, not just results: If your child accomplishes something, of course praise them, but it’s also important to add value to their approach. When you do this, you acknowledge that a child has the capacity to overcome obstacles and face challenges. When a child asks for help, praise can go a long way in promoting feelings of confidence and self assurance.
  4. Be an open role model: Talk to your child about your own difficult experiences (age and situation appropriate). Talk about your own strengths and acknowledge your own weakness and how this doesn’t make your worth any less. Brainstorm and ask your child for solutions to problems. The more open dialogue and positive framework for discomfort, the better your child will internalize their own positive sense of self.
  5. Increase exposure to different role models: Specifically in regards to social media and advertisements, it’s important to make a conscious and intentional effort to introduce and expose your child to a diversity of people. Use athletes, entrepreneurs, celebrities, and others who have struggled with obstacles as examples of staying motivated and resilient and that nobody is perfect.
Develop Self Esteem Cheat Sheet

Remember that nobody is perfect. Mistakes will be made as adults and parents of children, but as long as YOU are trying your best as well, children will typically follow.