Dr Bruce Robinson explains how a ‘healthy’ self-esteem builds resilience

Self-esteem for resilience

This month on the Fathering Channel we are exploring the importance of resilience in our lives, how we can help our children build resilience through their different ups and downs, and why resilience is so important in difficult times – and we all have our fair share of these!

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A key factor in the development of resilience in children and young people is a healthy self-esteem.

We want our children to believe, “I am capable and confident in myself and my ability to take on challenges and try new things.”

Young people with positive self-esteem are more likely to feel capable and valuable, have healthy relationships with family and friends and are less likely to engage in undesirable behaviours.

Self-esteem is the way we feel about ourselves.

We compare how we see ourselves, and how we believe others see us, with how we would like to be. In a nutshell:

  • Positive (or ‘healthy’) self-esteem is about accepting yourself as you are and feeling comfortable with yourself.
  • Low self-esteem is about wishing you were different or wishing you were someone else.

But let’s look at how self-esteem works.

Self-esteem is a combination of our thoughts about our self-image, what is important to us, and feedback from others. All these elements feedback to make up our Self Esteem index, they feed our self-esteem.

Adapted from: STARS – Straight talking about self-esteem, Erin Erceg, Clare Roberts Curtin University.

Self-esteem initially develops within family and close friends and is shaped by the perceptions and feedback of these people that are most important in the child’s life. Community, teachers, sports coaches can also play a role in the individual child’s self- esteem in a positive or negative way.

Positive self-esteem in the younger years is influenced greatly by warm, caring and engaged parenting. During adolescence the significant people in the child’s life begin to expand to include teachers, coaches and most importantly friends and peers.

Just as positive influences affect a child’s self-esteem, negative comments, disapproval, not living up to expectations, can also negatively affect a child’s self-esteem.

Some tips for building your child’s self-esteem and resilience:

  1. Love Unconditionally. Make sure your child knows your love does not depend on their grades, performance or achievements.
  2. Set aside time to really listen to your children and show them that you value what they have to say.
  3. Tell your children how special they are. Develop each child’s sense of themselves as an individual that has their own special characteristics and positive qualities.
  4. Give positive feedback. When you feel good about the way you child is behaving or the things they do, mention it to him or her. Children remember the positive and the negative statements we say to them.
  5. Praise effort as well as success. Encourage a positive attitude to learning and improving as just as valuable as winning or succeeding.


Dr Bruce Robinson is the founder of The Fathering Project – see more from Bruce

If you or your children are struggling
Kids can call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or Youth Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or you can contact your child’s GP. If you are struggling, call Lifeline on 131 114, or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.


Mondays with Fathering Project founder Dr Bruce Robinson
We want to foster connection, sharing and collaborating in this time of isolation and need. The Fathering Channel is an online community hub and a source of research-based advice, support and information. Tune in every Monday for Bruce’s weekly video – packed with fathering advice and tips.
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