Children with a healthy self concept enjoy the ability to express opinions, approach new tasks with confidence, resist peer pressure, make friends easily, and feel more motivated to study and learn. But during a time when differences among children that make them unique can also make or break them socially, healthy self-esteem and self-confidence may be difficult to muster without lots of help from you.

What You Need to Know

Self concept refers to an individual's complex sum of all life's experiences, with contributors and detractors including:

Independence and responsibility -  Independence and responsibility depend on one another. Students become independent when expected to be responsible. 

Jealousy – Jealousy is natural, resulting from ego-centrism. Even though jealousy is normal, it threatens children's self-respect. Children may express jealousy through boasting, aggression, or immature behavior, and when displayed more frequently than other peers, you should probably be concerned. 

Fear – Middle school students often develop fears relating to their social situations, which may manifest themselves as shyness, or submission to peer pressure. 

Conflict resolution and management of personal and interpersonal aggressive feelings are essential to entering a healthy adulthood and maintaining stable give-take relationships. 

Empathy (vicariously experiencing anothers' emotions) and helpful pro-social behaviors (sharing, helping, cooperating) help nurture healthy social interaction and broaden your child's sense of place within a larger community.

How You Can Help

In order to effectively address:

Independence and responsibility - Expectations of responsibility are best met when accompanied with reasons, so be sure to show your child enough respect to explain why the rules and expectations are as they are. Expecting and encouraging responsibility and independent behavior shows respect for children as individuals who are in the process of growing up.

Jealousy – Highlight your child's personal strengths and do not identify others as models to be emulated.

Fear – Recognize your child's fears, whether reasonable or not. Have her describe situations in which she's felt fear, and visualize how she may be able to cope with them in the future. Help your child develop confidence by encouraging realistic goal-setting and praising all efforts and achievements.

Conflict resolution - Help your child learn to resolve conflicts peacefully, which requires specific skills: knowing how to listen, empathizing, reasoning analytically, thinking creatively, and understanding another person's viewpoint. These should all be used to work toward a compromise.

Empathy - Foster empathy by showing verbal approval for pro-social behaviors, modeling empathy and pro-social behaviors in your own actions, and analyzing and discussing other people and even fictional characters for pro-social behaviors.

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