How Teachers Can Help To Raise Students’ Self Esteem

18 June 2015

Teachers and schools can play a major role in helping to raise a student’s self esteem as this helps to bolster the self worth and resilience of students. Self esteem is an aspect of how we value ourselves; and can affect our trust in other people, in our abilities, and affects relationships. Teachers are in a unique position to identify and forestall early symptoms as well as possibilities of self harm. One strategy is for the teacher to devise a means of helping such a student stop or gradually lessen the use of ineffective or damaging coping behaviours which, according to mental health professionals, often mask possible feelings of vulnerability, emotional distress, low self esteem, childhood neglect as well as hopelessness.

A teacher could also rely upon the attribution theory for offering guideposts for effectively bolstering self esteem and confidence in a student who possibly has challenges with self defeating characteristics. The issue of mental health problems isn’t just limited to particular groups; they also span all classes; race and cultures and self harm is no different.

Self Harm Awareness

Emotional WellBeing
Ref: Nathaniel Branden

Self-harm is not just expressed in terms of the individual cutting, inflicting self-harm, or self-injury, but it includes a wide range of things people deliberately do to themselves that are harmful but usually not fatal. This can be a very traumatic time for young people and those who care for them, however. Problems with self esteem could also be as a result of childhood neglect or of emotional distress resulting from negligence or intentional acts of another person.

According to available statistics, one in twelve young people are said to subscribe to or adopt self harming behaviour whilst the last ten years in-patient admissions resulting form self injury have increased by 68%. It is very worrisome that a vast number of very young people are subscribing to self-harm as a solution to coping with life’s difficult pressures. It is otherwise erroneous that self harm is often dismissed as just an attention seeking behavioural pattern; rather it is a sign that young people are feeling terrible internal pain and are not coping well with life’s challenges.

Research also suggests that peer support can be helpful but then seems to work best when it is used alongside a whole school approach to mental health and reducing social isolation. Teachers can make good and proper use of self harm training resources for teachers available to them in solving these anomalies and to help to gradually reduce the rate at which students self harm.

The reasons for self-harm seem to vary greatly, and are specific to the individual, however a young person may subscribe to self-harm to help them cope with negative feelings, emotional distress, pains resulting from childhood neglect, , to feel more in control or to punish themselves.

The World Health Organization also suggests that the following strategies are important in helping to greatly reduce the possibilities of future self harming occurrences:

  • Helping students to have a strong sense of identity.
  • Promoting both the stability and continuity of students’ education.
  • Promoting healthy diet and good eating habits.
  • Promoting emotional expression.
  • Curbing both violence and bullying tendencies at school and in the community, where possible.
  • Providing information about services and accessing specialist support early on.
  • Self harm training and raising of staff self harm awareness and in the context of a school policy.

In identifying preventive measures, work in schools can help to reduce and help prevent self-harm as well as attempts at suicide.  However, quite a number of young people would prefer to turn to their peers for support whilst many have said that all they want is to be able to talk to someone who will listen attentively to and respect them. Schools can also provide support for their friends and peers who have been confided in about the self harming behaviour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Invalidated Child: Part 2

12 May 2015

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at how adults can and do invalidate children’s feelings, thoughts and emotions.

Whilst our focus and emphasis is on the parent/child relationship, validation is an important component in other relationships and environments.

In this article in Part 2, we are looking more closely at how to validate a child (or oneself or adults, family and friends).

 

Validation is a crucial skill for anyone to have, especially parents as it is a valuable foundation for any child to have and it helps to build and cement relationships and stronger bonds within the family setting. It can be a difficult skill to learn and especially if the parent has themselves had an invalidating experience. It also requires acute listening; a deeper connection with the person that you are engaging with and consistent practice, practice, practice.

Whenever someone denies what a person is feeling, that person is not being validated. Essentially, denying a person’s feelings invalidates them. Invalidation affects children’s self esteem, sense of self and self worth, thus creating confusion with the likely consequence of them finding it difficult to regulate their emotions. This impacts on their emotional vulnerability resulting in maladaptive and/or inadequate responses to and from their environment.

Validating someones feelings, thoughts, emotions

Validating someones feelings, thoughts, emotions Photo Crd: AmberMidnight

Some parents may feel that validating their child’s feelings, thoughts, and emotions is agreeing with them in any circumstance or situation or that they may appear to be weak parents if they were to do so. However, validation is about:

  • Listening
  • Giving and paying undivided attention to children when they are speaking and especially teenagers
  • Describing what you see, hear or sense about the communication from the child (or other person you are engaging with).

 

Descriptions help to put aside your own thoughts and feelings about the particular situation being discussed, and focuses on the other person’s feelings and how they interpret, internalise or represent the situation from their world. How they feel about the situation is neither right nor wrong. It just is!

Descriptions also help you to state the facts from their dialogue (verbal or non-verbal dialogue) without you putting your own interpretation on it. This helps to offer them a more accurate reflection of their thoughts and feelings; which in turn help them to feel heard, listened to and that their feelings are valid and legitimate.

 

Examples of reflections or descriptions could be:

♦       I sense that you are still very frustrated about the situation

♦       Sounds like you’re angry that he keeps shouting at you

♦       I am hearing you are feeling like walking out due to his ongoing denial

♦       I can see that you are very upset.

The above examples are often termed as Reflective Listening and can be powerful in validating a child or another adult.

 

Validation on the other hand, helps you to connect with the person/child at a deeper level. For instance:

-         I can understand your frustration about that

-         Anyone would feel that way

-         If she keeps stabbing you in the back, it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to continue to be her friend

-         With your grandmother just passing away, I can understand you wanting to scream, shout or run wild.

In terms of a child wishing not to go to school, in this scenario, the parent or main care giver would validate the child’s feelings and thoughts at that moment of not wanting to go to school, however, the parent would then highlight that the action or behaviour of missing school is not an option.

Validation conveys the message to the person that their feelings, emotions, thoughts and behaviours are understandable in the context of the person’s situation and current or past experiences.

In all the above examples of validation, it can be seen that the sentences are not about denying nor agreeing with the person, but accepting and/or acknowledging that in the current context of their situation, their feelings, thoughts and emotions are valid and understandable.

 

The number one complaint from young people about parents is that their parents do not or did not listen to them. We are taught to read and write at school and in some cases, in the home environment, however, we are not taught HOW to listen!

As discussed earlier, listening is a crucial aspect of validating a child or another adult. In Part 3 of this series, we will look at the essential ingredients of listening effectively so that your child/children feel heard and listened to.

By Jennifer McLeod © 2015

The Invalidated Child – Part 1

4 February 2015

 

PART 1:

This article is a series of articles on invalidation, including the experiences of a child or parent that has been invalidated and how parents, professionals and practitioners can validate children to make a difference to their outcomes.

The invalidated child can seem like an enigma and is easily misunderstood. They come from all backgrounds, walks of life, race, culture and class in society.

An invalidated child can look like a child that is:

  • Misbehaving
  • Difficult
  • Seeking attention
  • Sabotaging their own success
  • Withdrawn
  • Attempting suicide
  • Self harming
  • Experiencing BPD (borderline personality disorder)
  • or exhibiting other maladaptive emotions to compensate for the “lack”.

 

The “lack” could include lack of:

  • Being heard
  • Having their experiences validated as real for THEM!
  • Having their opinions accepted
  • Having their feelings heard or accepted as valid and real for them
  • Privacy
  • Being cared for resulting in neglect
  • A sense of self
  • Other

 

An “invalidating environment” (Marsha Linehan; 1993) encompasses some or all of the above for the invalidated child.

 

How does a parent, caregiver or other significant adults invalidate a child?

(This also includes professionals and practitioners)

Examples of how adults invalidate children include:

All of the above examples highlighted in the “lack of” section; for instance, not listening to them; etc.

 

  • Abuse: – verbal, physical, emotional, sexual, psychological
  • Neglect
  • Denying their feelings “no (yes) you don’t (do) feel that way (e.g. angry)
  • Teaching children to lie “tell them I’m not here” or “this (sexual abuse) didn’t happen and if you tell anyone I will kill you!”
  • Responding erratically, inappropriately or in extreme fashions to the child’s communication or feelings
  • Ridicule them
  • Disregard their painful or distressing emotions
  • Non- responsive to needs of the child

 

Marsha Linehan suggests that sexual abuse is the most extreme form of invalidation for a child. These children are generally lied to about the nature of the abuse and threatened by the abuser if they “tell”. Additionally, the child is further burdened by the guilt and shame of the abuse, coupled with the abuse not being acknowledged by other family members and face being blamed or disbelieved if they pluck up the courage to “tell”. clinicians and researchers suggest that it is the secrecy surrounding childhood sexual abuse that may be a key factor for people experiencing BPD (Bipolar or Borderline Personality Disorder).

The invalidated child is one that is also very susceptible to being scapegoated within the family setting, especially if they appear as an enigma to family members and others around them. The likely result is that they consciously or unconsciously embark on a journey of seeking approval and reassurance, especially from their parents, with the likely effect of a cyclical process of denial and punishment, followed by more scapegoating.

That said, all children need approval, reassurance, need to be loved, to be validated and to feel safe and secure in their environment as their secure base.

 

 

Part 2 of this article will include:

  • Looking at further effects of invalidation for the child.
  • How to validate a child

 

Reference:

Linehan, M.M., (1993 ). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: London: Guildford Press

 

For any further information and queries about how Step Up! International can help you with self harming behaviour or any family related matters visit:

http://www.easytigerparentsystem.com