Self Esteem Builder

By Judy Lavin
Author of Special Kids Need Special Parents

Most parents want to help their children develop self esteem. For the child without special needs it’s a challenge—but for the youngster with extra issues, it can seem like an overwhelming task. There are some essential facts to keep in mind. Self esteem is not static. It can fluctuate depending on one’s state of mind and circumstances. Parents can only do so much to help their child. After a certain age, a parent’s input, while still crucial, is only part of the confidence equation. As children age, peer input as well as their ability to accomplish become an important part of how they develop self confidence. Still, it’s our job as parents to try to bolster our kids when they feel low. Here are 7 easy tips that will help you build self esteem.

  1. Be generous with hugs and kisses.
  2. Take baby pictures. Everyone wants to see how they looked as a baby. Too often parents of children who look different avoid talking pictures of their kids as babies and as they grow.
  3. Don’t allow your child’s condition to define him. For example, he’s not an autistic child; he’s a child with autism.
  4. Be a compassionate listener and try to understand where your child is coming from, even if you initially disagree with his or her perception of a situation.
  5. Use honest, open communication at all times. Kids know when you’re hiding things from them.
  6. Don’t compare your child unfavorably with other children. Be happy with his accomplishments.
  7. Become aware of your own attitudes of people’s appearances and their limitations. If need be, tone down any negative comments. Parents who make positive and negative comments about other people send the message that physical perfection is important.

Ultimately, it’s important to parents to understand their own feelings about the disability and imperfection so that they can fully accept their child for who he is.

Judith Lavin and her family spent nearly 16 years struggling with and triumphing over the complex medical challenges faced by her two daughters. Lavin, author of Special Kids Need Special Parents, Berkley Books, 2001, and a former journalist with the Chicago Sun-Times, recognized the need for an easy-to-read resource for physically and emotionally exhausted parents like herself, as well as their families, teachers, doctors and others who work with them. Lavin speaks to numerous organizations and parent groups around the nation, giving them inspiration and hope. Lavin’s work has been featured in numerous publications such as The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun Times, Newsday, Washington Parent and Chicago Parent and on radio CBS Radio Network and TV news and talk shows including the Today Show and Small Talk for Parents from PBS Chicago around the U.S. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University and taught high school in a Chicago suburb before she became a journalist. Lavin and her husband live in a suburb of Chicago with their two teenage daughters. Her step daughter is married and lives in Chicago. You can visit Judy at

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