Self-esteem is difficult for foster children to understand, let alone see in themselves. Even adults struggle with it from time to time. But that doesn’t mean self-esteem is impossible to find, even in bleak situations.
It starts with you
As a mentor, your own self-esteem is an example for your charge. How do you feel about yourself? How do you see yourself? Are you proud of your achievements and how you live your life? Because it’s absolutely fine if you are. There’s nothing wrong with having a healthy level of confidence and pride within yourself.
Ask them what they’re good at, and do it
Foster kids might say they aren’t good at anything and that simply isn’t true. Use this tactic instead;
What are you good at? turns into What do you enjoy?
If someone enjoys writing, they create great stories. If a person enjoys drawing or painting, they create nice artwork. Now a creative area, like art or writing, might not be your charge’s idea of enjoyment. But they could enjoy reading, playing games or sports. These can be implemented in one way or another during your time with them.
Give praise – within reason
Excessive praise does more harm than good. Children at the receiving end of constant praise from parents or other mature figures will crumble at criticism for others. This knocks down their self-esteem and can be hard to recover.
There is one way to give realistic praise, and we go further into that with the next point.
Help them set goals
Realistic ones where they will earn praise. You’ll work out goals within the first few visits. The Love of Learning Program emphasizes education; set up goals by term or by year. An easy one is reading; read X amount of books by the end of the year, for example.
Boosting the self-esteem of foster kids isn’t an uphill battle. That mindset makes things harder. It’s a matter of finding out what they enjoy, using it during your visits and watching them make progress. Their self-confidence and happiness will grow, slowly and surely.