Adolescent Psychotherapist: “This is the treasure that holds children in life”

The key to happiness and success: The therapist explains: “This is the treasure that holds children in life”

Happy, earned, successful – while some achieve it easily, others struggle with it their whole lives. The key to this lies in childhood. Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Ulrike Döpfner explains why self-esteem is so important and how parents can raise their children in a way that boosts their self-esteem.

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Mental illnesses are on the rise in children and adolescents. Especially since the outbreak of the epidemic whose massive restrictions have contributed to the deterioration of the living conditions of many children. But even before that, according to a survey by the Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists, nearly 20 percent of all children and adolescents in Germany suffer from a mental disorder each year. This includes:

  • Fears
  • depressions
  • eating disorders
  • addictive too
  • Disturbances in social behavior such as aggressiveness.

The crucial thing about it: anyone who was already sick as a child is also at risk as an adult.

It is very important to prevent mental disorders in childhood. Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Ulrike Döpfner explains in an interview with FOCUS Online that “one of the most important protective factors for healthy psychological development is self-esteem.” In her new book, “Self-Esteem Treasure – What Babies Carry For Life,” she explains why a healthy self-esteem is the foundation for a fulfilling life — and how parents support their children in developing a healthy sense of the thing. Self value. Because studies have shown that this later in life contributes to success in partnerships, relationships and work and thus also has a positive effect on health.

Self-esteem is based on self-acceptance and love

But what exactly constitutes an individual’s self-worth? “It is the evaluation we make of ourselves with all our qualities and abilities,” explains Döpfner. Thus those with good self-esteem feel valued and lovingly accept themselves as they are – with all their strengths and above all with all their weaknesses. Therefore, positive self-esteem is based on acceptance and love of oneself without falling into extremism. Döpfner explains that “people with positive self-esteem tend not to overestimate or underestimate themselves.” They show neither complacency nor arrogance.

However, self-esteem should not be confused with self-confidence. “Children can be self-confident in certain situations, but still have low self-esteem,” explains Döpfner. It works another way, too: “A child who, for example, has no self-confidence in their academic accomplishments still has good self-esteem because they know they are still loved and valued.”

Self-esteem grows in childhood and remains stable throughout adulthood

The childhood years are a formative stage for developing self-esteem. “During his research, developmental psychologist Ulrich Orth from the University of Bern discovered that self-esteem increases from preschool age to 10 to 12 years of age, and interestingly enough that it remains at this level throughout adulthood,” explains Döpfner.

Only in adulthood does self-esteem increase again before decreasing again in old age due to disease or weakness. This means that: The childhood years are critical to the level of self-esteem with which we reach puberty and begin our adult lives.

Parents have a great influence on their children’s self-esteem

But what exactly determines the development of our self-esteem? “Comparative studies with identical and dizygotic twins have shown that only about 30 percent of twins are genetically determined,” says Döpfner. Most self-esteem comes from external factors and experiences we have, such as reactions from others. Your own thoughts, such as the comparison with your true and ideal self-image, also contribute to this.

However, the values, behaviors, and fears that parents pass on to their children also play an essential role: “The way we raise our children, and how we communicate and deal with them has an enormous impact on their self-esteem,” says Dubfner. Therefore, parents who want to boost their children’s self-esteem or direct their development in a healthy direction are asked to hold a mirror to themselves and examine their own behavior and beliefs.

A person who limits himself all his life with attitudes such as “I can’t do that” or “I don’t deserve anything unless I achieve something” usually transmits this attitude to their children, consciously or unconsciously. “Constantly thinking and doubting oneself in daily life full of parental pressures is stressful, but important because parents are role models for their children,” says Döpfner.

Tips to enable children to raise children

So the way we interact with our children on a daily basis has a huge impact on developing their self-esteem. But how exactly can parents make a difference in this regard? According to Döpfner, upbringing that enhances self-esteem includes the following points:

  • Allow freedom of design: Children who are allowed to express their wants, dislikes, and needs develop a good sense of themselves.
  • Leave room for decision making, encourage decisions: Give children as many options as possible. In this way they develop an awareness of their own personality.
  • Acknowledging and validating feelings of sadness: Don’t ignore or downplay children’s negative feelings, but take them seriously. This is how children feel understood and accepted.
  • Correct praise: Do not shower children with praise. This creates dependence on parental praise, destroys self-motivation and can also lead to overconfidence. Children also associate their self-esteem with their accomplishments. So you only take credit for unusual and notable actions, such as when a child puts extra effort into something.
  • Granting independence to children: Anyone who trusts their children to do something and gives them the confidence to do something on their own and to solve problems independently gives them the opportunity to discover their potential and gain confidence in themselves.
  • Do not monitor homework too strictly: Anyone who monitors and directs children too strictly regarding homework and learning is jeopardizing their independence and learning to self-manage.
  • Create a culture of positive error: Mistakes are important because children learn from them and grow from them. So your child should not be ashamed of mistakes or hide them.
  • Expose negative beliefs: Transform sentences like “I’ll never be able to do that” into positive ones like “I can do whatever I set my mind to.” Because language determines our thoughts and actions and creates reality.

Unconditional parental love is the most important breeding ground for healthy self-esteem

But the most important fertile soil for the development of a child’s self-esteem is the love and care of parents. “It starts with the child, who needs a constant reference person who responds to his needs, giving him safety and security so that he can develop a basic confidence,” explains Döpfner.

“Because children are existentially dependent on the love of their parents,” she asserts. Making parents feel like themselves, loved, and loved is the most important foundation for stabilizing self-esteem. This carries children safely into adult life and helps them lead a happy and fulfilling life.

This is especially noticeable in difficult times or crises. Because kids with high self-esteem are more resilient: “Self-esteem is a protective and empowering factor for our children’s development,” says Döpfner.

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