Better self-esteem in one of the top five goals for kids that I hear from parents when they come into my office. Low self-esteem can manifest in different ways. It can look like the child that is constantly seeking praise and reassurance from others, showing off or asking if others like what they’ve done. Or a child that never seems to feel like they are good at anything, putting themselves down or comparing themselves to others. Or a child that has an extreme reaction and meltdown to any criticism or perceived insult, no matter how small. Or the child with a special need or diagnosis that can only focus on what is “wrong” with them. All of these children need extra help in building positive self-esteem.
Self-esteem stars can be a great activity to highlight positive characteristics in a child and build self-esteem. This is especially great for the child that seems to always focus on negative events and their own failings, forgetting about all the positive things that they have done. We begin the activity in session with a few stars and then it becomes a homework activity to be continued at home with the parents. In addition to helping the child notice and remember their positive qualities, the self-esteem stars activity brings parent and child together to talk about their day and helps the parent to focus on something their child is doing well.
Print and cut out several paper stars. Talk with the child about a few positive qualities that they have and specific examples that demonstrated these characteristics. Fill this in on the stars and let the child decorate the stars if they wish. At home, they can choose a place to hang the stars. For homework, they should work with their parents everyday to fill in a new star and add to the collection, surrounding themselves with concrete reminders of their positive traits and abilities. Encourage parent and child to always include a specific example so that the child does not doubt the praise or consider it an empty compliment.
A version of this article for parents was first posted on my private practice blog. Original article can be seen here. It also includes some tips for parents on effective use of praise.
I wish I could cite the original source of this idea. It was something that I heard about doing in a training when I worked in foster care group home/residential treatment.
Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT, ATR is a psychotherapist in Austin, Texas who works with children, adolescents, and families. For more information about individual therapy, adolescent and child counseling, family therapy, teen group therapy, and art therapy services, please visit www.therapywithcarolyn.com.
This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental health conditions. All directives, interventions, and ideas should be used by qualified individuals within the appropriate bounds of their education, training, and scope of practice. Information presented in this blog does not replace professional training in child and family therapy, art therapy, or play therapy.
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