When you are setting up activities to build self esteem in children there are two aspects to consider. The first is the kind of ethos you will be encouraging. Second is to focus in on the component of self esteem you most want to promote. There are three components to self esteem. These are Sense of self, Sense of belonging and Sense of personal power.
Sooner than you begin your programme of activities stop and think for a bit about the main goal of the activities. First you need to think about the whole group. Which of the above components are most important for the group as a whole? Second think about individuals inside the group. Who has particular strengths and who needs more support? Which component is the most important for the person needing support? Third think about the following aspects of the culture within the group already. How you have been working with the group for long? Do they know you and each other reasonably well? Is it a new group who have never worked together before? (Bear in mind that the same kinds of questions are relevant even if you are working with one individual.)
In general the component that needs most focus for most people most of the time is a sense of belonging. Scores of pieces of research have shown that this is the core factor to feeling good about yourself. This means that whatever programme of activities you are running, even if the group, or individual, knows each other and you it is really helpful to focus on making sure everyone knows that they bring a unique, special something to the group and that they would be missed if they werenít there and will be welcomed every time they are there. The following are ways of working with other people that foster this basic sense of connection and create the ethos you need as a firm foundation for any programme.
1. Every child feels respected and valued for what they uniquely bring to the unit or relationship.
2. There are firm but fair rules which you all consistently apply.
3. The children have been involved in the decision making process about some of the things that have an effect on their lives.
4. The children trust you and each other to be considerate and receptive.
5. The children feel cared about.
6. There is shared positive language as the norm
7. Mutually respectful relationships are encouraged and enjoyed.
Having these things in place will mean that the children are in an atmosphere where they can most easily build their self-esteem, and also most easily learn. Once you have planned to embed this kind of climate with the group the activities you form into a programme can then focus on self awareness activities to build the sense of self or experiences that build a sense of worth and competence which help to form individual power - or both - depending on the needs you identified early on in your planning.
Look out for our articles on specific games which build self esteem.