Self-Esteem & Resiliency


What is Self-Esteem and Resiliency?

Children’s sense of self changes and develops as they grow. Self-esteem is a term used to describe a person’s confidence in their abilities and worth. As children grow they need different types of support to promote healthy self-esteem.


Self-esteem is the result of experiences that help a child feel capable, effective, and accepted:

  • When children learn to do things for themselves and feel proud of what they can do, they feel capable and develop a sense of mastery.
  • Children feel effective when they see that positive things come from efforts like trying hard or learning a new skill or task.
  • When children feel accepted and understood by a parent or someone close, they are likely to accept themselves.

Children with healthy self-esteem tend to:

  • feel valued and accepted
  • feel confident in their abilities
  • feel proud of themselves
  • have positive thoughts about themselves
  • feel prepared for everyday challenges
  • display resiliency when faced with challenges
  • be willing to try new activities

Healthy self-esteem is considered an important factor in resiliency for both young children and for adolescents. When children feel good about themselves they are more willing to try new things, make new friends and experience success. Healthy self-esteem is a strong protective factor for children and adolescents and is a strong predictor of resiliency.


Resiliency is the ability to ‘bounce back’ following a disappointment, loss or stressor with minimal long-term impact. Resilience partly comes from factors internal to the child. A resilient child has social and emotional competencies for their age that help them to name their feelings, manage their emotions, be aware of other people, solve problems, and make good decisions. A child’s unique temperament or personality will have some bearing on this. Resilience is affected by external factors too. Children are more likely to be resilient when there are positive supports around them from family, school or community; when they are able to seek help, and help is provided with care. If children are surrounded by adults who model resilience – through their own behaviours as well as by explicitly teaching and practising the social and emotional skills – they will be more likely to demonstrate resiliency.


What are the indicators my child may have low self-esteem?

Children with low self-esteem often:

  • feel self-critical and are hard on themselves
  • less resilient and may be more affected by stress
  • feel insecure, or not as good as other children
  • constantly comparing themselves to their peers
  • focus on the times they fail rather than the times they succeed
  • lack confidence
  • doubt their ability to do well at things
  • have increased vulnerability to bullying


Intervention for low-self-esteem

Often children who present for other concerns such as low mood or anxiety symptoms often also display low self-esteem and poor resiliency. Treatment focuses on identifying personal strengths, focusing on positive feedback and positive self-talk and specific self-esteem building activities. Treatment is collaborative in nature with both individual child work as well as parenting support provided.  Parents are a pivotal part of self-esteem building in their child through modelling of their own positive self-image as well as through praise, compliments and empowerment. Resiliency training is also a key focus of intervention. Building resilience comes through the development of social and emotional skills, which include adaptive coping skills.