Self-Esteem in Children with Speech and Language Impairments

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As parents, we are bombarded with endless chatter from our children, whether it is a request for more snacks, a story about school, or an endless tale about the latest YouTube video they have been watching. It can take a toll on our mental well-being, and make us long for the days when our only concern was what to wear on Friday night! I have experienced many of these tiresome situations with my own family and I had a moment of realization when I heard someone finishing my son’s sentence because it was taking him too long to get his words out. In that split-second I realized that it’s up to me to set the precedence. I want him to always speak up and contribute in any way his abilities allow. In order for him to feel confident to say what’s on his mind and be exactly who he is, I must be the one to push past the mental exhaustion of any other responsibilities, be patient, and generously listen to him. The first line of support for children begins in the home and if I can create a space for my son to express himself fully, then I can be hopeful he gains the confidence necessary to be unstoppable out in the world.

Building self-confidence in your child of typical development is important, however, special attention may be required for the child struggling with a speech and language disorder/impairment.  Whether it is at home, in a classroom, or on the playground, a child’s lack of ability to express him or herself can have a lasting effect on their self-esteem. Self-esteem describes the cognitive and emotional evaluation of our own worth (the worth your child feels). Self-Esteem can affect how one truly feels about themselves and ultimately how they behave and act. Acknowledging a child’s perception of their own self-worth is important for all adults in a child’s life. Low self-esteem can have a lasting negative impact on a child’s social relationships, mental health & academic performance.

“ A child with a healthy dose of self-esteem has the best defense against  life’s challenges.” -Ariadne Brill

Here are some simple tips to implement a positive effect on a child’s self-esteem:

  • Make time for one on one interactions with the child. Demonstrate that you are actively listening. Maintain eye contact and acknowledge what the child says. 
  • Provide positive praise for things the child does, whether the actions are big or small.
  • Be a role model for others by demonstrating how to communicate with someone who at times may be difficult to understand. Try to concentrate and be patient with the child. Set up positive social interactions between the child and an appropriate peer.
  • When possible try to decrease frustration for the child by eliminating distractions and giving the child enough time to communicate.
  • Speak with his or her speech-language pathologist to better understand the errors the child typically makes when communicating.
  • Importantly, try not to finish the child’s sentences, rather than letting the child speak for him or herself.

Building self-esteem in your children is only one small part of parenting, but it can make all the difference in who they become  in the world. Our sacrifices as parents are endless and we constantly put ourselves aside to contribute to their well-being. There have been countless days when I skimp on my own personal care to make sure they are fed, presentable, and on time, however, the importance lies in them feeling good when they show up to the places they need to be. It is a commitment I have taken on to be patient, listen with enthusiasm, and let him get his words out however long that may take.