Solo Parents are hyper-aware that a typical kid’s self-esteem can become very fragile during major life changes. Everything from moving to a new house or city, entering an awkward stage of maturation to losing a pet or grandparent can put dings in a child’s self-opinion.
That’s a typical kid. But let’s talk about kids who have suffered loss. Divorce or the death of a parent affects not only the child, but the entire family. The family unit becomes effected, and the loss event may rattle the child’s ability to acquire and maintain a healthy self-esteem. So, it is vital for solo parents to equip themselves with knowledge and tools to keep their own self-esteem healthy and strong— even in the face of adversity– to ensure a strong and resilient self-esteem for their kids.
According to Abraham Maslow—psychologist best known for creating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—every person, adult or child, has five basic needs. Each one is a pre-requisite for the next. This hierarchy starts with physiological needs of: air, food, water, warmth, shelter and sleep. Maslow theorized only after these basic needs were met would an individual want to pursue and achieve the next of these: the need for safety, social belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization.
But, it is important to note that according to Maslow, a healthy self-esteem cannot be achieved or without first meeting basic physical needs, feeling physically and emotionally safe and acquiring a sense of belonging. Essentially, adults and children must have ample supplies of food, water, access to clean air, shelter, warmth and adequate sleep. They also require the recognition of personal safety and belonging in order to properly function, move toward and ultimately attain a strong self-esteem.
Here are the six essential needs necessary to obtain a healthy, strong and resilient self-esteem;
- Sense of Physical Safety—Children must feel physically safe within their home and school environment. Specific to solo parents, children must feel safe when they are with relatives, family friends, caretakers or co-parents. Once children are aware they are physically safe, they feel confident to explore and discover the world around them. They stand tall and courageous within their environment.
- Sense of Emotional Security—Children need to feel free of shame and verbal abuse. When children are emotionally secure and experience an environment free of hurtful words, shaming, name-calling and sarcasm, they develop a sense of empathy and acceptance for themselves and others. Additionally, they connect with and befriend others, feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings and experiences and are less likely to seek out or tolerate toxic people or relationships.
- Sense of Identity—Children need to be individuals. They need to like who they are as they continue to grow. They can then feel worthy of compliments and praise and begin to applaud not only themselves but others for their achievements.
- Sense of Belonging—Children must feel emotionally connected and socially accepted within their families, friendship circles and often beyond. This is not to say they should seek the approval of others. However, children must feel loved and accepted by their parents for who they are and become throughout their developmental stages. Once this is achieved, they are more likely to feel a sense of acceptance within social circles simply because they accept and love themselves. They learn and maintain a sense of independence while learning the concept of interdependence, and they begin to initiate the process of befriending and sharing with others.
- Sense of Mission—Children need to feel a sense of purpose in their lives. This helps them believe their life has meaning. Once they realize this, they gain a sense of direction and begin to understand the concept of person goals and the point of working to achieve them. They become individuals who can easily adapt in the face of change and create alternative ways of doing things when obstacles present themselves.
- Sense of Competency—Children need to know they are capable. Realizing their capabilities and accepting they are good at certain things assists them in wanting to try new things. Additionally, it prevents them from quitting simply because a task proves too difficult or challenging. They learn to persevere through the struggle, gain endurance, inner strength and resiliency.
Parents who commit to providing themselves with the basis for a healthy self-esteem can ensure that their kids acquire these six needs. The key for solo parents lies in teamwork between parent and child. Celebrating each other’s personal growth and development not only provides connectedness and a sense of achievement for everyone, it boosts the family’s esteem. It also reminds the child that adults grow and learn too. Everyone is in the process together, and though no one is perfect, everyone—parent and child—strives to make progress.