Children and young people are our shared responsibility!
Life Education Finland works for children and young people. Life Education lessons provide the child with information about their own body and its function in an interesting, understandable way, and teaches the child to make good health-related choices based on the information they receive. Supporting a child's self-esteem is also part of the curriculum.
Life Education Finland collaborates with Väestöliitto, The Family Federation of Finland, among others. The goal of both parties is to increase well-being of children and young people.
Specialist physician at Väestöliitto, Raisa Cacciatore, has written extensively about children and young people's self-esteem and supporting the same. On our website, Cacciatore has written a list of ten items that every adult can use in their own parenting:
What is responsible adulthood? Supporting a child’s self-esteem is deeds.
Child psychiatrist Raisa Cacciatore et al., Väestöliitto, 2008
1. Believe in the child
By highlighting skills, goodness, and success of a child or young person, your parenting is ten times more effective than by pointing out flaws and mistakes. Whatever happens, your job is to make sure the child knows that you will make it. An adult does not surrender, and does not demand that the child cope alone or take on adult responsibility. Praise the child when they are doing the right thing or behaving. Behaviour should not be corrected all the time. An adult does not lose confidence, even when being tested. One day the child surely will know how to do the right thing.
2. Be present
Be present in the child’s everyday life, it is school of life at its best. Challenges, difficulties, or the need to talk do not happen between 6pm and 7pm, sometimes it takes all night and sometimes we have to cancel work to be with the child. A broken self-esteem goes unnoticed unless we are present and listen. Provide an unwavering presence as often as possible, strive to live in a common reality. The most important thing is not that you know where the child is, the most important thing is that the child or young person always has a safe adult close at hand.
3. Make encounters matter
Make the interaction palpable. Listen, look in the eye, give a joyful encounter. Accept the child's joy and fear, their concern and smile. Do not guide and teach all the time, simply sharing everyday life and giving the child space is more effective parenting. Talk about your feelings, your life and your dreams – be present as a person, not just as a parent - but don’t rely on the child. Support the child or young person's own reflections and respect their point of view and reasoning. Give pat on the back, a shoulder rub, take the child by your side
4. Support when needed
A child who has made a mistake, gotten injured or has low self-esteem needs special support. It is good for other children in the family to see that when a person in need is being helped, the needs of others will have to wait. However, the child's learning of life skills should not be limited by excessive coddling, being intrusive or clinging to the child. Excessive comforting can reinforce a child’s negative feelings. The child or young person must face challenges and experience success on their own, without help from anyone else.
5. Enjoy everyday life
There are 365 days in a year. All of them cannot, and should not, be a party. Even simple everyday life can be fun. Drop housework every now and then work on self-esteem instead, it’s fun! Spend a day in pajamas and read books together with the child. Build a snow castle together, conquer a nearby forest. Play a laughing game, everyone can laugh at themselves. Embrace everyday life, everyday chores create a sense of belonging and trust. When a child is busy with their own stuff or a young person is reflecting on life, let the child or young person feel they are the apple of their mother's eye and the pride of their father. The child is unique, the best in the world. They should feel valuable just the way they are - a hero in their own life.
6. Be a role model
Be an example of a self-confident person. It means forgiving past mistakes, enjoying life, and showing that you value what you are. If you show control of emotions, self-respect, and consideration for your own need for rest or care, you will help your child treat themselves with respect. Demand that other people as well as your child treat you with respect, that way the child will learn to demand the same. Do as you teach, do not get provoked or get into a power struggle, believe in yourself – the child can learn from it as well. Children do not treat themselves the way you treat them, but the way you treat yourself.
7. Understand the individual
Your neighbor's children and yours are all different. Some are absolutely certain that the world revolves around them, whatever they do. Others are insecure and need confirmation all the time. Every child goes through different phases. Don’t try to turn your child into an average child or anything other than what they are, but provide them with the kind of parenting and adulthood that they need. Accept differences in temperament and a slow, individual, and gradual development. And remember that it is a good thing that a child wants something. It means they have goals and make an effort to achieve them. Let the child want, do not deny them everything right away.
8. Be an adult
A child challenges the adult all the time. Sometimes you have the urge to respond in kind and for instance argue with the child about the color or number of Christmas tree ornaments. However, parenting is adulthood, and even if the child with their provocation awakens your inner child and you want to do it your way, you should be the adult. Decorating a Christmas tree is a kid thing, even if it does not turn out the way you are used to. The adult is responsible for managing the situation even when there is disagreement. And whenever possible, you should give your child the experience of being right. When it comes to ornaments, the child is always right.
9. Take care of yourself
Remember to take care of your own needs. It is not up to the child to make your life easy and harmonious even when you are struggling. Children and young people are on a roller coaster of life. We walk hand in hand with them from one crisis to another, but we also get the opportunity to experience amazing highlights. Children show their emotions - including distress, anger and disappointment. These challenges take a toll on your ability to cope. Seek strength in whatever gives you strength, and work on your own self-esteem whenever you can. If you find adulthood distressing, seek help.
Believe in yourself, you are the best parent and adult for your child. Don’t postpone efforts at self-improvement. When facing challenges, you should seek support from other adults, family, friends. Go to parent-teacher meetings, read a book and study the matter. Ask for help if you need it, and don’t be startled by your own uncertainty and confusion. Your child’s childhood and adolescence is reality when your child is living it. That is when they need your parenting and adulthood as a foundation from which to build a strong self-esteem and like a tree grow leafy branches and an amazing tree top. When supported by an adult, they have the courage to reach for the stars. Only you can do your part, do it now and do it well.
10. Act now
Source: Miten tuen lapsen ja nuoren itsetuntoa? WSOY 2008. Cacciatore, Korteniemi-Poikela, Huovinen.