All parents want to raise self-confident, self-sufficient children. However, for single parents, it can seem like you are always struggling just to keep up. Whenever possible, enlist the help of the other parent – yes your ex. Assuming you have a good relationship with him or her, as part of your co-parenting process, you both need to provide moral support and encouragement as your kids go through some challenging times. If your ex-spouse is not available, find your village. It takes a village to raise a child, and your village is out there. Don’t be afraid to call on them in times of need. Building self-confidence in kids can be done whether you feel alone or have a tribe behind you. Regardless of who is in your corner, you can help your child be the fantastic person you know they are.
Show them that you love them even when they mess up. Kids will make mistakes. They will make wrong decisions, say nasty things they don’t really mean, do things intentionally to get your attention or annoy you and ignore things you’ve asked them to do. As a single parent, you don’t have the support and at times, conflict with your child or children get overwhelming. You are working to keep the household afloat. Take a breath, step back and show them that you love them. Forgive them for their shortcomings and admit to them when you are wrong as well. This humility will make them feel better about themselves and assure them that after all, we are all human and nobody’s perfect.
Building self-confidence in kids can be done whether you feel alone or have a tribe behind you.
Sometimes including your children in your decisions is not practical. For example, you cannot allow them to choose your neighborhood or your house—unless you have unlimited funds. However, you can include them in more basic daily decision making like chore planning, meal planning, and budgeting. Give your child a budget for a meal plan. Ask your children to plan all of the food and meals for that day, but give them a budget to work with if they are helping you grocery shop. By giving them household based decision making powers, they will feel empowered and important.
Let Them Be Independent
Children from the age of two to twenty-two want to make their own decisions. They do not want to have to justify everything they choose. Allow your child to make appropriate choices. For instance, a two-year-old can choose between two outfits, a blue or red cup, or a hat or no hat. Permit your fourteen-year-old to choose shorts or pants, even on cold days. Your children need to learn how to navigate life with little input from you. Guide them and tell them things that will help them make appropriate decisions, but you should encourage your child to be independent. As they learn good and bad choices, they will begin to feel more self-confident. If they make a terrible choice, let them know that it is okay, and help them make better choices.
Let Them Fail
Yes, you read that right. Allow your children to fail (sometimes). Yes, it is a painful feeling to know your children are disappointed about some outcome they didn’t expect. Whether it’s a feeling of rejection, disappointment or anger resulting from that failure, we do want our kids to experience real life. Not everything will turn out perfectly. Failure teaches children how to start again, be strong and keep trying and trying again. When they fail, acknowledge how they feel and be empathetic but optimistic and encouraging. You will not always be around to help them make choices in life, so if they fail, let them know it’s a learning opportunity and experience that makes them more insightful and stronger in the long run. Be there to catch them when they fall, but at some point you will need to remove the safety net and they will need the strength to deal with the outcomes of their decisions.
Encourage Them to Explore Other Skills
Children need creative or athletic outlets. Sports, theater, music, art, and writing can help children experience and grow as they learn new skills and meet new people outside of their school. These activities provide a healthy mental and emotional balance for kids that is outside of the pressures of school. If they are good at these activities, they will feel a sense of accomplishment, belonging and self-worth. If they are in a team setting or engage in competitive activities, they will develop the drive, tenacity, persistence and winning attitude that propels passion and gives them a sense of purpose and direction. Winning promotes self-confidence and pride but let them know it’s also okay to lose as well.
Teach Them Positivity
Teach your children they have value and are worthy of love, respect, and forgiveness. This also means that you have to show them that you are worthy of the same. Let your children see you forgive yourself. You have to think carefully about the words you use when describing yourself or talking to and about yourself. Using words like stupid, fat, ugly, worthless, and crap are not teaching your children the right way to talk to/ about yourself. Show your children your self-talk in a positive way. You should also let them catch you talking positively about them. They need to know that they are worthy too. Don’t make your self-talk or “caught” praises fake, but find genuine things to say about yourself and them.
Let Them Feel
One of the worst things we can do as parents is to dismiss how are kids feel. By not acknowledging how they feel about a situation and then telling them how they should feel, will make them question whether there’s something wrong with them. They need to know that their feelings are valid and accepted. You can also teach your children that what they feel does not have to control them. Allow them to feel, but help them sort those feelings. Sometimes, there are emotions left over from the divorce situation that don’t come to the surface. It might be good to take the kids to a neutral party to sort out emotions that could be impacting their self-esteem, safety and security.
None of these things require much time or effort, but some of them require forethought. You have to change the way you think about things and direct things to your child. Let them be who they are and teach them that makes them perfect in your eyes. When you are disappointed, convey your disappointment in their choices and condemn the bad behavior rather than criticize their character. Children are resilient and have more confidence than we can imagine but you must be consciously building it over time in order to have happy, well-adjusted kids.