Self-esteem is an issue that most of us struggle with. For a child with a chronic disease, the struggle is even greater. Darlene Honigford presented a clear discussion of what self esteem is and how to nurture it in our children.

What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is the collection of beliefs or feelings we have about ourselves. Experiencing a sense of accomplishment bolsters self-esteem, starting very early in life. It is about how much you feel valued, loved, accepted and thought well of by others, and how much you value, love and accept yourself. Self-esteem is important as it gives one an immunity to the roller coaster of life. Rejections, disappointments and failure are a part of daily life. Life is not always fair or equitable and even our best efforts are not always successful. But high esteem can assist a person in "weathering the storm," to look beyond immediate downward dips.

People with healthy self-esteem feel good about themselves, appreciate their own worth, have a positive attitude, take pride in their abilities, skills and accomplishments, see themselves as competent, and compare themselves favorably with others. Researchers have found that high selfesteem correlates highly with self-reported happiness. Those who have a healthy self-esteem tend to enjoy interacting with others. When challenges arise, they are able to work towards finding solutions. These people are comfortable in social settings and enjoy group activities as well as individual pursuits. They know their strengths and weaknesses and accept them. They can voice discontent without belittling themselves or others, and have a prevailing sense of optimism.

Those with low self-esteem, on the other hand, feel as if no one likes them or accepts them. They feel they can’t do anything well, have a sense of powerlessness, and experience depression. They may not want to try new things and frequently speak negatively about themselves. They may exhibit a low tolerance for frustration, giving up easily or waiting for somebody else to take over. Easily disappointed in themselves, they see temporary setbacks as permanent, intolerable conditions.

Ones level of self-esteem has a great deal to do with how one reacts to having a chronic disease. Feelings of being different and, perhaps, damaged make it more difficult to feel good about oneself. The disease may cause frustration and anger. In fact, it often creates a paradox: The disease, MSUD in our case, must come first in your life, yet you don’t want it to take over your life. While following one’s treatment program is of utmost importance, there is a feeling that the condition has never been and never will be you. Coping with this paradox takes emotional honesty, maturity and support.

Improving Self-Esteem
A critical step is to stop thinking negative thoughts about yourself. To help accomplish this, the child should be encouraged every day to write down 3 things about themselves that make them happy. Focus on positive thoughts, not on thoughts of defeat or failure. The child should be encouraged to:
  • Aim for accomplishments rather than perfection
  • View mistakes as learning opportunities
  • Try new things
  • Recognize what you can change and what you can’t
  • Set goals
  • Take pride in your opinions and ideas
  • Make a contribution ex: volunteer
  • Exercise
  • Have fun
Parents can help by:
  • Watching what they say
  • Praise and reward effort and completion of task instead of outcome
  • Be a positive role model
  • Nurture your own self-esteem
  • Identify and redirect your child’s inaccurate beliefs
  • Be spontaneous and affectionate with your child
  • Give positive, accurate feedback
  • Create a safe, nurturing home environment
  • Make your home a safe haven for your family
  • Help your child become involved in constructive experiences
If you suspect your child has low self-esteem, consider therapy to help your child adjust the way he or she views himself and the world.

Darlene closed with the following anonymous quote:

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, for they will become your character. Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny."

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