Boosting Self-Esteem in Children After Divorce

Kids are dynamic and are constantly changing as they grow older.  One of many things that evolves over time in kids is their sense of self-esteem. A child’s self-esteem is an important factor that shapes their personality and their interactions with others. Through positive interactions with others, a child's sense of self-esteem tends to boost.

Parents are directly impacting their child’s self-esteem on a daily basis whether they realize it or not. Kids are observant, and if a child sees their parents fighting or is put in the middle of their parents' divorce, this can deeply affect a child on a personal level.

Beginning in 2008, a study at the University of Wisconsin - Madison looked at the long term effects of divorce on child development. The study observed 3,600 kids beginning in their kindergarten years through the fifth grade.

During this time, a number of these children experienced their parents' divorce, and those children showed differences in certain skills compared to those whose parents did not divorce.

These differences included decreased interpersonal skills and a tendency to internalize problems, both of which can affect a child's ability to make and keep friends. The study also showed a decrease in math scores during and after the time that the children were experiencing their parents' divorce.

All in all, the study shows how divorce may affect a child's personality, sense of confidence, and even their academic performance. Parents who feel that they must divorce in order to make a better life for their family will still do so, yet it is important that they are aware of the emotional toll this decision will take on their kids.

Again, parents are major influences on their child's sense of self-esteem, and as such, there are several things that parents can do to help boost it and relieve some of the emotional stress that the kids will experience due to divorce. Here are a few tips to help boost self-esteem in children after divorce:

Don’t put your kids in the middle of it.

It is not uncommon for divorced parents to find themselves in a position where they struggle to have a peaceful conversation. Even though they may feel like never speaking again, co-parents can’t just write each other off; they are still connected by their kids.

If you find yourself in this situation, it is very important that you and your co-parent actively work to keep your children out of the middle of divorce conflict. This can be done by working to resist the urge to argue when you are in front of your kids and by never asking them to act as your messenger.

Since you and your co-parent will need to discuss matters relating to your kids, you should work to find new ways to communicate. Working with a mediator or therapist, or taking parenting classes can be very useful in helping you find new ways to communicate with each other.

Encourage your kids to spend time with friends.

Children who are showing signs of low self-esteem may benefit from spending time around their peers. Spending time with their close friends will be a good way for them to have fun and to boost their moods.

Your kids may also benefit from practicing interpersonal skills around new people. Joining a sports team can help your kids better understand how to communicate with others through teamwork.

Also, taking your kids to art or drama class can give them a positive outlet through which they can express emotions. No matter what they do, encourage your kids to enjoy themselves and the time that they spend with those around them.

Don’t overly praise your kids.

As children grow and build their self-esteem, they also increase their ability to gain new skills and improve on others. Even though you want to tell your child how good of a job they are doing all the time, it is important that you don’t mislead them by offering praise at the wrong moments.

For instance, if you notice that your child is having a hard time getting the answers correct on their math homework, you wouldn't want to tell them that they did a good enough job just yet. Doing so may confuse your child into thinking that they are doing well, even though they aren't getting the correct answers.

Instead, encourage your child to keep trying, or even sit down and help your child work through the problems until they get the correct answer. If you think that your child needs extra support to boost their skills, they might benefit from working with an after-school math tutor.  As your child sees their scores improve and they receive the praise that they earned for doing well, their confidence will also improve. 

Remind your kids that it wasn’t their fault.

Even though you might have talked about it one time, it is important to remind your kids that your divorce was not their fault. If they believe that it was their fault, then they may be harboring feelings of anxiety that they could carry with them throughout their lives. Start a conversation with your child about it every once in a while.

They might not always want to talk about it, but it is still good for kids to be reminded by both of their parents that the divorce wasn't their fault. Other times, they might want to ask questions about it or tell you how they feel about the situation.

Answer their questions in an appropriate manner, and let them get their feelings off their chest. This time, you might not want to talk about it, but by shutting your child down in this moment, they might feel that it is because they had something to do with it. 

A child's sense of self-esteem will continue to grow with age. As parents, you should do all you can to promote emotional health and high self-esteem. If you notice your child having a hard time with this during or after your divorce is finalized, seek help from a mental health professional who is experienced in family matters such as divorce. They can offer your child extra support and guidance on how to boost their self-esteem.

The reverberation of your divorce on your child's emotions shouldn't hold them back from being the person they want to be. By giving your child the support they need to boost their self-esteem, they can better achieve the goals they set for themselves in life.