How to Help Challenged Children Improve Self-esteem – Part 2

In my last post, we discussed some issues surrounding children with intellectual or physical challenges.  We are very aware that these children have some considerable challenges in how they perceive their world and themselves.  Many of these children also encounter  significant obstacles to overcome as they grow and develop.   

14 Ways to help children with intellectual or physical challenges improve their self-esteem

It is so important that caregivers are very intentional about how they go about nurturing their very unique child.  Here are some ideas to use for improving the self-esteem of children with intellectual or physical challenges.

  • Caregivers often become exhausted with challenges because they can be so demanding. Attend self-help groups for adults, parenting groups, and social skills groups for children with special needs. Research has shown it is helpful to spend time with others who face the same challenges.
  • Arrange for the child to have a “buddy” who is of similar age (or a bit older) in their daycare or school who can encourage them to join in with other children
  • Intervene in order to stop a criticism or other type of rejection of the child.
  • Make sure the child is provided with a lot of support and nurturing before, during and after a significant and/or painful medical procedure or hospitalization. Play therapy is often helpful to reduce anxiety or deal with pain.
  • Make sure adults who interact with the child know as much about the child’s special needs as possible.  They need to know not only their deficits but their strengths as well.
  • Make sure any talents and abilities are nurtured and opportunities are provided for the child to participate in activities related to them.
  • Set up activities whenever possible in which the child can feel some success during the activity, preferably one which he can complete himself. 
  • Make sure that the child is provided with opportunities for emotionally positive, fun and happy times.
  • Emphasize building the child’s sense of being able to cope by teaching specific strategies for dealing with situations that the child finds difficult.
  • Remember that providing limits and expectations within the child’s abilities is crucial.  In this way, the child can gradually learn self-discipline and feel more in control of his behavior.
  • Makes sure the child is not overindulged and spoiled. Limits are very important to give him or her a sense of competence.
  • Provide information to other caregivers about the child’s disability, making sure that a philosophy of acceptance is fostered and that the caregiver can use the information to encourage the child to be the best he/she can be.
  • Remind parents and caregivers that taking care of themselves is critical.  Also developing a support system of family, friends and professional is crucial.
  • Remind parents and caregivers that it is important to seek professional help if the child is showing signs of depression, excessive anger, or withdrawal.   

The highs and lows

Taking care of a child with special needs can be extremely exhausting.  Yet, there is are so many special moments in caring for these children that are amazing and priceless. 

It is so important that caregivers are very intentional about how they go about nurturing their very unique child.  With the help of others, theirs can be a richly rewarding time of growth in their sense of self and value to the world. 

I deeply appreciate all of the parents, caregivers and family members who are giving of themselves to help our children overcome some significant obstacles.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network 

Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Sarah Landy, p. 356.

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