Children on the autism spectrum often have a harder time developing self esteem than their typical peers. They struggle to find their value and self identity and may have a hard time understanding their own internal worth, especially when they don’t always understand their own emotions. Here are a few tips for helping your child on this journey to self esteem:
Find Their Passion
Help your child find something that catches their interest and have the whole family support it. This can be a great help when they are feeling down about something they aren’t good or have failed at and you can shift their focus to something they are great at and enjoy. It should help them identify things about themselves to be proud of and things they can share with other members of their family and peers to start conversations and develop a feeling of importance in their social space. Whether it’s a love of space and playing chess or an affinity for dinosaurs and facts about past presidents, let them find their niche and shine!
Remind Them That Bad Days Happen to Everyone
Having a bad day, doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It’s important to remind your child that even though they will have days where they are struggling, those days are only 24 hours long and the next day is a chance to start over. This will also help them learn forgiveness of other people’s bad days – when Mom is yelling for seemingly no reason and Grandpa is grumpy at dinner – those people deserve their bad days too and it doesn’t mean they aren’t as valuable a person because of it.
Point Out Differences in Others and Celebrate Them
Talk about how some of the best people in their life are different and how those differences help make them who they are. Celebrate the little quirks in each person in your family and focus on how being different is something to be proud of. Talk about people’s unique personality traits and compare them to their own. Have each family member describe their favorite things about the others. Write them down and review them when your child is having a bad day or feeling low. Different does not mean less!
Model Healthy Self Esteem
If your child constantly hears you down on yourself, they will think this is a normal behavior and follow suit. You want to show your child that while it is important to set goals and work towards them, failure is a part of life and it does not change who you are as a person. Express your disappointment in a healthy way by verbalizing it but also focusing on how you will try something different next time or change your goals to something else you want to accomplish. Show pride for trying and that the important thing is not to give up.