Improving Self Worth of Youth
Surrey, Vancouver, Jan. 03, 2014
A person’s life is like a pendulum. It swings back and forth. Take for example, the question of dependency. From birth to teenage years, the child is almost totally dependent upon his/her parents and other caregivers. Around age 13 or so, he/she becomes less dependent. This brings in the phase of semi dependence which continues into adulthood when that person becomes fully independent. This phase continues till that person is in his/her sixties or seventies and the old age begins to set in. At this point he/she becomes semi dependent upon his/her family. Eventually in old age, that person is likely to become totally dependent upon others. In each phase a person’s self-esteem is extremely important. This is more so when he/she is either semi dependent or totally dependent upon others. As a matter of fact, self –esteem is extremely important for all of us regardless of our age. It isn’t something we can see, touch or hear-but it is there and it is ours. We own it. It is the way we feel about ourselves, the way we talk about ourselves and the way we see ourselves.
A high self-esteem (not an overblown ego) is equally important for adults and youth. However, it is more so in case of our young people as they are fairly vulnerable members of society. They need constant encouragement, guidance and support in order to succeed in life. Moreover, the youth need a strong sense of belonging, security, identity, purpose and personal competence.
The signs of high self-esteem are pleasant ones. These include making positive statements, accepting compliments, looking people in the eye, being willing to risk new experiences and celebrating the success of self and others. Individuals with high self-esteem demonstrate a high degree of acceptance of self and others. They recognize their own specific strengths and skills, as well as the special abilities of others. There is a feeling of security in the environment and in social relationships. Persons with high self-esteem exhibit pride (not arrogance) in themselves and a sense of responsibility for personal actions.
Building self-esteem in children and youth can be viewed as a sequential step- by- step process. In order to give them a sense of security, belonging and purpose, adults in the youth’s life must set realistic limits. Rules must be laid out clearly and explained to the youth in simple language. Avoid ambiguity and jargon. Recognize the youth’s strengths. Demonstrate love and acceptance. Encourage inclusion and acceptance of others. Create an environment that is conducive to the youth’s success. Provide on-going encouragement and support.
It is important to acknowledge and recognize the youth’s knowledge, competence, creativity and other esteem building qualities. As parents, grandparents and caregivers, we must encourage, equip and empower our young people to be independent, resourceful and successful in life. We must make every effort in helping them develop into happy, successful, productive and caring members of our society.
In this context, it is helpful to make one aware of the developmental stages of children and youth .As children enter adolescence, they tend to become more peer focused. As a matter of fact, those with low self- concept become so attached to their peers that they will do anything to gain their approval and acceptance. As such, issues like self- confidence and assertiveness become even more crucial for their well-being. This is a very challenging phase for the youth and their parents/caregivers. They need to understand that the youth is going through a very critical phase of development. Rather than being harsh and punitive, parents need to be understanding and supportive. They need to instil confidence in the youth by helping him/her make sound decisions, focusing on youth’s positive attributes and helping him/her become a confident and productive member of the family and society. Change the youth’s ecology/environment in such a way that he/she feels competent, happy and successful. Be consistent. Avoid power struggles. Develop feelings of positive self-worth. Try to be a good role model for the youth. Following these simple suggestions can make the life for the youth and the family to be very enjoyable.
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist)