Building your Child’s Self-Esteem

As parents of children born with a cleft this topic is of great importance to us, as like other children born with a difference, whatever it may be, our children have to deal with all the usual peer group issues along with being born with a cleft.

By giving our children realistic appraisals of their abilities; the way they look and how they talk; we will be helping to boost their self esteem. Children know when you are being dishonest, this will lead both to a false sense of reality and a lack of trust in what you are saying is true. Reality leads to acceptance and higher self esteem.

By giving your child a greater understanding of their condition they are far more likely to accept it and the procedures they need to have done.

Here’s how you can help…

  • Acceptance – Our children need to know they are loved for who they are. They need to know we accept their ambitions, recognise their strengths, weaknesses and recognise their feelings.
  • Acknowledgement – We all need to be seen. Acknowledge what you see your child experiencing, just labelling the feeling can be liberating and affirming for anyone, your child included.
  • Appreciation – Children need to be noticed; they need praise and encouragement. Help them succeed by breaking down large tasks into smaller ones and praise when they achieve them.
  • Affection – Make sure you demonstrate affection towards your children right through their life and don’t stop as they get older. Our children see themselves in how we look at them so it is vital we show them respect, love, trust and affection.
  • Accountability – Children need to know they are capable so when problems arise don’t interfere or lecture, but empathise with them and ask them how they think they can sort it out. Our questions help our children work things out themselves and develop strategies for the next time. They know they have choices and can fix problems on their own. This is extremely important in a peer group situation when you won’t be there to help.
  • Responsibility – Give children age-appropriate chores because the ability to do things themselves boosts self esteem. True self esteem is the ability to pat themselves on the back – to know they have done the right thing or made the right choice.
  • Balance – As human beings we are many things. Don’t focus on one thing to the detriment of all the other parts that make up that person.  Your child was born with a cleft, but it isn’t who they are.

Thanks to a presentation from John Cowan of Parents Inc for this material.

Secondary School

Hopefully the groundwork has already been laid for a confident, self-assured teen who is comfortable in his/her own peer group.

If they are changing schools at this stage, as parents you need to be doubly understanding and keep the lines of communication wide open. This is when Cleft NZ links to their own age group and Facebook may be valuable.

For episodes of bullying use the same (above) tactics as for a younger child.


The same angst as all teens go through – but with the added pressure of looks becoming so important. Again, self-esteem should be strong enough to get them through but additional support may be offered through the many agencies and even through our young-adult and adult mentors.

Seek support

If you think your young person is struggling with low self esteem,  don’t wait – do something about it.

  • Talk to Cleft New Zealand 0800 425 338
  • Contact your GP
  • Contact your Cleft Co-ordinator to see if there are any services available or that they can refer you to.

Related Content

  • Before Baby is Born
  • After the Birth
  • Feeding & First Steps
  • Preparing for Surgery
  • Moving On
  • Red Flag Alerts
  • Ongoing Treatment Options
  • Milestone Charts