Building Self-Esteem in Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
Self-esteem has a strong impact on all aspects of a person’s life. If your child has self-esteem he, in general, feels good about himself and his accomplishments. Self-esteem provides a foundation for personal growth and development. Children with high levels of self-esteem are more likely to have confidence in their own judgment and be willing to
- explore new ideas and activities,
- make and keep friends,
- reach out to help others, and
- take on greater responsibility as they mature.
Your positive feelings about your child and his abilities, the experiences you provide him, and the encouragement you give him all have a major impact on his self-esteem.
Your child’s interactions with others also influence his self-esteem. Positive relationships will help him feel more positively about himself. But it’s likely that your child may have some negative experiences along the way. When that happens, you can help him deal with them in a constructive manner. Perhaps some children on the school bus tease him about his vision, calling him “blindy” and “four eyes.” Let your child know that you understand how he feels about being teased—that it is hurtful, but maybe some children call others by unkind names because they don’t feel very confident about themselves. Other people may ask thoughtless questions such as, “Why can’t you see that,” or “What’s wrong with your eyes?” You can help your child by suggesting ways he can respond when that happens. He might say, “I can’t see it because my eyes don’t work well. But I can read it if you let me hold it closer.” Working with your child to develop simple, factual answers to awkward questions can help him be prepared for challenging situations as well as help him maintain and boost his self-esteem.
Another way to help your child build self-esteem is letting him know what he does well. Help him celebrate his achievements by sharing the news with other people who are important to him. Call his grandparents to let them know that he got an “A” on a math test or that he just earned his green belt in karate. Sighted children see their good work posted on bulletin boards, and they see the smiles on their parents’ faces at school awards ceremonies. Your child may not be able to see these visual cues confirming that he’s done well. Be sure to let him know by words and gestures how proud you are of him. Recognition from you and other family members can increase his positive feelings about himself.
Encouraging your child to help others is another way to build his self-esteem. Helping with chores around the house, collecting the neighbor’s mail when she’s out of town, doing yard work with his grandfather, and showing a friend how to use a new video game are examples of activities that can help your child feel useful and capable.
Finally, give your child opportunities to meet other people with visual impairments. Having the chance to see and talk with accomplished people who are visually impaired—children his age, older children, and adults—can increase his sense of assurance about his own future.