Children & Young People's Emotional Health

Self Confidence and Self-Esteem

Self-esteem means we have a positive view of ourselves and know we are of value. Self-esteem and confidence go hand in hand, giving us the belief that we can cope and helping us do our best.

People with good self-esteem will take pride in their achievements and feel connected and liked by others. It helps children and young people feel confident to try new experiences and learn new skills. If they make mistakes or things don’t go as well as they hoped, it will help them think through what happened and try again.

Some children and young people need more support to believe in themselves than others. Life is easier when you think positively about yourself and it makes challenges and new experiences easier to cope with. As parents you can help your child grow in self-confidence and self-esteem.

Throughout our lives, even into adulthood, we can all work on and improve our feelings of self worth and self belief. This will make it easier for us to manage and cope with new experiences and challenges. It lets us achieve our full potential and helps us make the healthy friendships and relationships we deserve.

Dive Deeper

Top Tips

Throughout our lives we can all work on, and improve our feelings about ourselves. This will make it easier for us to manage new experiences and challenges. There are lots of ways that we can help ourselves and our children with this.

  • Be a good example - be positive in what you say about yourself, your child, and other people.
  • Keep trying when you find things hard – even if it doesn’t always work out. You are showing your child that you can ‘survive’ things not going as you hoped.
  • Notice and comment on the positives in your child’s personality, behaviour and achievements – children know when praise is genuine and when they deserve it.
  • Encourage your child to eat well and get regular exercise.
  • Have conversations about social media and how it doesn’t often show ‘real life’.
  • Get your child to set themselves a challenge - it could be reading a big book, or swimming more lengths – achieving a goal helps confidence and builds pride.
  • If your child is worrying about new experiences, and how they will cope, remind them of things they have managed before and ask them to think how they coped then.
  • Some people find big groups of friends hard. It’s ok to have one or two good friends.
  • Help them spend time with friends and family of all ages – chatting with the elderly or very young – can help to build a picture of themselves as being helpful and good company to others.


Self–esteem and confidence building begins in babyhood. Every time you praise a child for trying something or talking about the things you like about them, you are sending a clear message that they should be proud of themselves too.

When you praise a child try and praise the things they have control over, like trying hard or being kind rather than things they don’t, like being beautiful! This praise will help your child understand their strengths and help build self confidence and esteem.

Your praise will feel more valuable if you are able to tell them exactly what you are praising. For example instead of saying ‘well done’ say;

‘Well done you worked so hard to colour in the lines’ or ‘I could see you trying really hard to sit still in school assembly.’

Children know when praise is genuine and when they really deserve it and they can feel pride in their achievement. Having your efforts praised and your progress noticed is a good feeling and children will feel motivated to keep trying. This builds self-esteem.

Positive Thinking

Negative thoughts make it hard to take positive steps forward. If we expect things to go wrong it is hard to motivate ourselves to try. If we constantly talk negatively about ourselves, in our heads and to others, it is hard to find the confidence and self belief to do new things and meet new people. We might put up with things we shouldn't because we don’t believe we deserve better.

Thinking positively helps to build faith in ourselves. Having an attitude that expects things to mostly go well helps. Thinking good thoughts about yourself and about other people and picturing things working out well can make things seem more ‘doable’.

Even when things don’t go as hoped and mistakes are made, your child can learn how to experience ‘big feelings’ like failure or fear, and try again and stay hopeful that things will go better next time.

Your child will learn a lot about positive thinking from you. If they hear you being kind about yourself and recognising your strengths and the strengths of others, you can be a good example for them to follow. When you are happy to ‘give things a go’ even if you feel a bit wobbly about it, this will help them grow the confidence to do the same.

If they hear you calling yourself names like ‘stupid’ or ‘rubbish’ and expecting things to go wrong, they will learn that trying new things is scary and not worth doing.

Confidence & Self-Esteem Wobbles

When children and young people are facing changes and challenges, like a move to High School, even confident children can feel wobbly.

Going through puberty can also affect your child’s confidence and self-esteem. A combination of the changes in their brains, body and new experiences can make them feel uncertain and compare themselves to others unfairly. Talking to your child about these changes and the fact they are a normal part of growing up, can help it feel less worrying.

For children who have already struggled with their self-esteem and confidence these changes may make those wobbly feelings stronger and sometimes a little overwhelming.

Helping your child talk about their thoughts and feelings is really important. It can help you support them to gently challenge negative feelings they have about themselves. We all have a ‘critical inside voice' that can get really loud and squash the positive thoughts away. Ask your child to think about their ‘inside voice’;

  • What is it saying? Am I letting it take charge?
  • Is it true? Who would agree with it? My Mum? My Friend? My teacher?
  • Is the voice helping me or getting in my way?
  • What would a more helpful ‘inside voice’ say?

Talk about your own inside voice too – it is good for children to know that we all struggle sometimes with negative thoughts and worries. Make suggestions to each other of how you can challenge the ‘inside voice’ when it is getting in the way.

Activities To Try

You can give your child some ideas of activities that might help them understand more about the importance of confidence and self-esteem. It can help them build some healthy habits and make talking about their feelings easier.

Positive Diary

  • Use a special note book or start a ‘positive file’ on the laptop.
  • Think of 3 positives that have happened that day. These can be small or big - making a friend laugh, watching their favourite TV show or doing something they felt proud of.
  • Get them to write it down / draw it.
  • Think about how it made them feel.

Doing this regularly they will build a habit of recognising strengths and feeling positive.  

Mirror of Compliments

  • On a piece of paper draw a mirror shape.
  • Then draw or stick a picture of your child.
  • In the frame write down all the positives about them.
  • Get them to ask other to add to the ‘mirror’ like friends, family members or a teacher.

You should be able to fill the frame with all the different qualities or what makes them special. This will give your child a visual reminder of their qualities.

Positive Affirmations

A positive affirmation is making sure your inner voice gives you the positives! Making it a daily habit helps your brain start to listen!

  • Choose a time of day such as after cleaning your teeth or before you leave the house.
  • Look at yourself in a mirror or close your eyes so you can concentrate.
  • Your child might have an ‘affirmation’ of their own such as ‘Today I can do anything.’
  • You could have a family affirmation that you say together or remind each other about - ‘We always try our best and that is good enough.’ Think together what would suit your family.

You can remind your child of their strengths with a little note in their lunch box or a text message if you know they might have a challenging day. This can give a boost of confidence and let them know you are there for them when needed.

Join Clubs

Groups and clubs are great ways to help your child build confidence. Developing new skills, having fun or widening friendship groups all add to feelings of self-worth.

It can be a big challenge for your child to try something new;

  • Let them choose the activity – really wanting to do it, it will make it easier to take the first step and go along.
  • Talk with your child and see if they can come up with ideas to make it feel a bit easier.
  • Is there a friend who might want to join with them?
  • Can the group leader ask another member to help them settle in?

Praise your child for going along. Help them to think what strengths they used that helped them try something new.

When To Get Help

If you feel worried that your child’s lack of confidence and self-esteem is getting in the way of them enjoying life, making friends and reaching their potential, it is good to get some more advice.

Your child deserves to feel positive about their future and believe that they can reach their goals. If this is new for your child, you may be worried that they are struggling with low mood.

Talk to your child’s school - they also may be able to offer some extra support.

Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

For 11–25 year olds Kooth is a free, confidential and safe way to receive online counselling, advice and emotional well-being support. 

Childline - Children and young people under 19 can call 0800 1111 for free support.

Young Minds Parents Helpline - Call 0808 802 5544 for free Mon-Fri from 9.30am to 4pm.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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