Ten Ways To Boost Your Diabetic Child's Self-Esteem
Self-Management Raises Self-Esteem
Self-Esteem Fosters Independence
Children who have diabetes often suffer from low self-esteem and self-confidence, but it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, boosting both of these qualities in your son or daughter can have big pay-offs in their ability to learn how to take age appropriate responsibility for their own health and diabetic management.
Self-esteem is the degree of love and acceptance that a child has for his or her self. No child is born with self-esteem. They learn it through a life-time of personal experiences. The younger the child is, the more influence and control the parents have in teaching them self-love and acceptance.
Confidence is very closely related to the degree of self-esteem and will rise in tandem with it.
Kids with high levels of self-esteem and confidence share the following traits and they:
- Assume responsibility
- Act independently
- Take pride in their accomplishments
- Tolerate frustration
- Handle peer pressure appropriately
- Attempt new tasks and challenges
- Handle positive and negative emotions
- Offer assistance to others.
To see the value of raising your child's self-confidence consider the following scenario:
Ten year old Mary has just started attending a new school and a girl from her classroom invites her to sit next to her in the cafeteria. The new friend offers her several cookies for dessert. Not wanting to explain why she shouldn't have cookies, Mary eats them and falls asleep during the last class because her blood sugar is high. The other kids tease her, calling her "Sleepy Mary, Miss Contrary." The next day Mary gets a stomach ache at the thought of returning to school and begs her mother to let her stay home.
In the above example, Mary's low self-esteem and low self-confidence have set her up for more experiences that will further erode how she feels about herself and her ability to make friends thereby causing a viscous downward spiral.
Let's take the same scenario and see how Mary might have handled the situation if she was equipped with high self-esteem and confidence:
Mary thanks her new friend for offering her the cookies but says she can't eat them because she has diabetes. The new friend asks her if she has to take shots and the other kids at the table stop talking and stare at her, waiting for the answer. Mary shakes her head, "No, I have an insulin pump, want to see it?" Mary shows them the pump and the kids ask her lots of questions. When Mary gets home from school she tells her Mom that she made new friends at lunch because the kids thought her insulin pump was awesome.
Can you see how high self-esteem and confidence set Mary on an upward spiral of acceptance and love? That's what you want for your kid, right? Of course it is. Then let's move on to the 10 things you can do to boost your child's self-esteem to the highest level.
10 Tips To Boost Self-Esteem And Confidence
Knowledge is power. Educate your child about diabetes. Encourage him to read books and use online resources. Take him to diabetic health fairs.
Encourage self-management. Teach your child to check his own blood sugars, self-inject, care for insulin pump, etc. Do this in an age appropriate way that takes your child's abilities into consideration. Under parental supervision, children as young as 4 or 5 can be independent with some of these things. However, it's important not to force the child to do them before he's ready. Break the task down into small steps and give the child some control. For example, if he's on insulin allow him to choose and swab the site with alcohol. When he's comfortable with that encourage him to stick himself with the needle. When he's a little older teach him how to draw up the insulin. Mastering smaller tasks builds self-confidence so that the child will naturally want to do more on his own.
Praise your child for his self-management efforts.
Teach him positive self-statements, such as, "I control my diabetes by eating right, taking my medication and getting plenty of exercise."
Be proactive about avoiding problems at school. At the beginning of each year contact your child's teacher and ask her to arrange for the school nurse to teach the class about diabetes. Encourage your child to participate and help answer questions that his peers have, but don't force him to do so.
- Avoid criticism that takes the form of ridicule and shame.
- Let your child "own" his problems. Problem solving helps him gain self-confidence. For example, if he's in the doctor's office because he hasn't been feeling well, let him be the one to explain his symptoms to the doctor and ask questions about what he can do to feel better. (You can always ask additional questions that need answers.)
- Encourage your child to use humor as a coping mechanism, especially with his peers. Help him learn humor through viewing comedies, reading funny books and fostering a light-hearted atmosphere in your home. The family that laughs together, stays together and kids who laugh a lot will want to keep playing together.
Encourage your child to participate in sports if the doctor will give medical clearance for participation. If possible, let your child attend a diabetic summer camp where he will be taught the necessary precautions to take before, during and after training exercises and sports competitions.
Teach your child about famous athletes, celebrities, historical figures, entrepreneurs, scientists, inventors, etc. who accomplished great things despite facing challenges related to their diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association website is a great place to start educating yourself and your child about diabetes and to find online community support. You can find them at www.diabetes.org. You may also call their center at 1-800-Diabetes for information and community support on Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 8 PM (EDT).
Equip your child with knowledge, high self-esteem and self-confidence so that he feels empowered to pursue his dreams. Living with diabetes is a challenge but many diabetics have accomplished great things. Inspire your child with stories about these accomplishments at http://www.dlife.com/diabetes/information/inspiration_expert_advice/famous_people/