This article was contributed by Dove Self-Esteem Project

The Dove Self-Esteem Project provides teachers, family workers and parents with free school resources to help raise young people's body confidence and self-esteem. Teachers and professionals can download free resources to deliver self-esteem workshops to young people. These articles contain advice suitable for secondary school-age children. 

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How setting personal goals can boost your child’s self-esteem

Someone scoring a point in basketball

‘What do you hope to achieve?’ ‘What do you want to become good at?’ As daunting as those questions may be, studies have shown that we are much more likely to accomplish the things we want to do if we set out clear goals. Clear goals can help to influence our long-term thinking and give us the direction and confidence to achieve our aims.

Helping your child set some personal goals can be a great way to boost their self-esteem and to identify and develop their particular strengths and talents. The Dove Self-Esteem Project’s ‘Uniquely Me’ Parent Guide, which you can download for free, has lots of advice on how you can help your child focus on what is special and unique about them.

Here are a few things to bear in mind:

Show support by joining in

It’s easier to do something when you know someone supports you and is on your side. You could consider setting some personal goals for yourself at the same time. Before you define what you want to achieve, you should first think about where your skills lie. The ‘Real Me’ activity in chapter 4 of the free ‘Uniquely Me’ Parent Guide could be a good starting point when trying to identify what you’re both good at and what you would like to improve.

Children are under a lot of pressure during their formative years so it’s a good idea to let them take the lead. You don’t want to imply they need to challenge themselves; rather, you want to inspire them. Showing your child that you value your own uniqueness can help.

Focus on talents — not appearance

There’s so much focus on what people look like these days that it’s easy to forget what really matters — the things that make us unique, like talents and skills. Many children are concerned about not being good-looking enough, and airbrushed images in magazines and on social media only make matters worse. Research by MediaSmarts found that looking at models in magazines for only one hour lowered the self-esteem of more than 80 per cent of girls.

Some young people may wish they had smoother skin, or rock-hard abs — but body-centric goals can add to your child’s concerns rather than their wellbeing. Comparisons between themselves and social media influencers are not helpful because those beauty ideals are unattainable. Instead, encourage them to set goals that complement their strengths and talents, and tell them what it is about them that you really love and value.

You can read more about how you can move the conversation away from appearances in chapter 3 of the free ‘Uniquely Me’ Parent Guide from the Dove Self-Esteem Project.

Help them stay focused on their goals

Once you’ve helped your child define what it is they want to achieve, the next challenge is to keep them thinking about it. This is easier said than done. But if your child thinks it’s a good idea, you could put them up on sticky notes to remind them of how brilliant and special you think they are.

(For teachers and professionals, the Dove Self-Esteem Project also offers a series of workshops and resources with practical activities to help boost children’s self-esteem. Download them for free.)


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‘Uniquely Me’ is packed with advice and practical activities for parents to help nurture their children's body confidence and self-esteem. It contains advice from Dove Self-Esteem Project global experts on body image, self-esteem, eating disorders and media representation to create a resource for parents that is focused on advice and action.

Download your free ‘Uniquely Me’ Parent Guide

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