Improving Your Foster Child’s Self-Esteem

Foster children face unique challenges throughout their childhood and young adulthood. In some cases, their early childhood experiences can interfere with the development of healthy self-esteem. Adolescents in the foster care system often experience one or more traumatic events in their lives or in the foster system. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including traumatic events, can impact a foster teen’s ability to form a positive self-image.

Havenwood Academy helps teenage girls process trauma, overcome behavioral issues, and build positive self-esteem. We also provide educational resources for parents to ensure they know how best to support their daughters.

Helping Your Child Overcome Self-Esteem Issues

Constructive parenting allows you to remain empathetic and nurturing while holding your foster child responsible for following rules. You can discourage negative behaviors that cause friction between family members and peers by showing them the benefits of positive behaviors and modeling them well.

Children in foster care may come to a new family after experiencing:

  • Severe emotional neglect
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Parental figures struggling with substance misuse
  • A home where basic necessities were not met
  • Few family rules and disregard for social expectations
  • Extremely controlling parental figures and unachievable family expectations
  • Financial stress
  • Abandonment
  • Lack of consistency and stability

A foster child’s previous experiences may cause them to connect irrational beliefs with their sense of self-worth. Be mindful of a child’s past when creating boundaries and working to help them improve their self-confidence. How foster or adoptive parents treat their child will impact their sense of self.

Low self-esteem often causes foster children to blame themselves for ACEs outside their control. Teens may feel responsible for the circumstances that caused them to enter the foster care system. To avoid the pain of loss or rejection, your child may isolate themselves or lash out. Parents can help them learn to trust again by being open, honest, and consistent.

Low Self-Esteem and Behavioral Issues

Behavioral and mental health disorders can develop from various underlying issues. How a child sees themselves can impact their sense of worth and affect how they interact with others. According to Academic Pediatrics, “Low self-esteem has been associated with a number of psychological, physical, and social consequences that may influence successful adolescent development.” Disruptive or out-of-place behaviors may mean that a child does not feel comfortable with their beliefs and self-image.

Some other signs that a child might have low self-esteem include:

  • Using belittling or negative language to describe themselves
  • Showing little interest in their well-being
  • Putting the comfort and safety of others first
  • Accepting the negative opinions or constructive criticism of others
  • Blaming themselves for situations outside their control
  • Feeling unworthy of love, comfort, or happiness

One’s foster daughter can overcome low self-esteem with time and support, compassion, and patience. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review states, “The well-being and everyday functioning of children in care depends partly on them developing self-esteem.” It may take time and the help of a mental health professional, but all foster children can learn to identify and value their strengths.

3 Ways to Improve Your Foster Child’s Self-Esteem

Children often lack the skills to cope with overwhelming negative events and emotions. Some adolescents and teens may need extra support when experiencing stress, anxiety, and other issues related to their mental health. To this end, a balance of compassion and parental authority can provide the child with the support they need to establish healthy coping tools.

Parents can improve their foster child’s self-esteem while remaining firm about the consequences of unhealthy behaviors. Below are three ways parents can improve their child’s self-esteem.

#1 Set Clear Guidelines and Boundaries

A foster child may not understand the importance of respecting boundaries and guidelines. Parents should establish and maintain healthy social and personal boundaries by setting clear house rules. In addition, they should explain the need for boundaries and rules and make sure the child understands that the guidelines are there to empower them. Openness, honesty, and active listening to any concerns or questions about the guidelines and boundaries are crucial.

#2 Remain Consistent and Encourage Positive Behaviors

Foster parents must ensure their child feels safe and comfortable in the home. Reacting consistently, no matter the situation or how they behave, can make a huge difference. Knowing the limits and what to expect from certain situations will help them learn to control their reactions. Parents can encourage positive behaviors by rewarding them when they follow your guidelines. Doing this instead of only punishing negative behaviors is a way to build their confidence and self-esteem.

#3 Encourage the Teen to Engage in Confidence-Building Behaviors

As a parent, individuals have many resources and tools that can help their child form a healthy self-image. Parents can encourage their teen to engage in confidence-building activities, including:

  • Celebrating successes with the family
  • Keeping a journal of positive events
  • Taking part in group hobbies or activities

Even small activities can help a child begin to discover and express their self-identity and increase their self-esteem.

Children in the foster care system often have untreated behavioral or mental health issues caused by adverse childhood experiences. Low self-esteem is a common symptom of various mental health conditions. You can help your child heal from past trauma, adapt to their current circumstances, and build self-esteem by giving them access to mental health treatment. The programs offered at Havenwood Academy are specifically geared toward treating trauma and behavioral issues in teen girls. We can help your child recover from the effects of childhood trauma. Your child will benefit from having a warm and nurturing home where they feel safe expressing themselves. To learn more about how we can help, call us at (435) 586-2500 to speak with a representative.


Think Havenwood Might Be For You?

We encourage any visitors considering placing their daughter in treatment to fill out our online assessment as soon as possible. This two minute form will give our admissions team all the information needed to determine if your daughter is a good fit for our program.