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6 year old DD1 has low self-esteem and says he wants to die -help!

(15 Posts)
MiriPiri Mon 22-Dec-08 21:28:08

He seems a happy social child, but has no confidence in his abilities, is beaten before he's started and refuses to try anything out of his comfort zone incase he fails or looks foolish!

DD1 says he is an idiot, usless, stupid and wishes he were dead! Is this normal? How do I know whether these are genuine feelings he is having or if he is saying them for effect? How do I handle it?

Any help would be great as I'm feeling a bit out of my depth with this!!

GoodWilfToAllMN Mon 22-Dec-08 21:36:13

How sad for you both. My DS went through a phase of saying he might as well die at about the same age. I think some (not necessarily all) is because they have just really learned what it means. But if he has low self-esteem in general clearly that needs addressing.

I would think not setting the bar too high with things he can achieve, recording the results somehow so he can remind himself (a diary is a good idea so he has physical evidence of his achievements, take photos if he's not up to writing...) and making sure he knows you're proud of him whatever he does might help.

SpankyouHardOnChristmasNight Mon 22-Dec-08 21:41:53

Oh poor love - I am sure that those feelings are completely normal but that doesn't mean they should be ignored or that they aren't serious. I used to think like that myself as a child and now I'm confident and happy in my abilities (whatever they are hmm)! I am absolutely no expert though! Here are my thoughts for what they're worth....

It wasn't until I was an adult that I got the confidence to care less about failing and for it not to floor me. One thing that helped hugely was entering an occupation that forced me in to taking a lead role in communicating with people and hence the more people I spoke to, the more realistic my expectations of what I and others could / should reaslistically achieve. This made me feel happier and less bothered by failing. So - extrapolating across, I would definitely make him feel 'heard' by you and see if you can gently encourage him to talk and see if he can get to the bottom of what it is that he's afraid of. Also, how about enroling him in something like theatre / karate - a 'special' activity that is just his that he can lose himself in and gain confidence of his skills in a group setting?

MiriPiri Mon 22-Dec-08 21:54:31

Recently he's made huge improvements in swimming after months of not wanting to try for fear of failure. With every little bit of progress he has had massive praise. He's now really proud of how well he's done

When he is worried about a new challenge I try to use swimming as an example that trying new things can give you a sense of achievement. He just replies that I don't care about him, sticks his fingers in his ears and goes la la la!

I never try to make him achieve things that I'm not absoltely certain that he can achieve, but he behaves as though I'm some pushy ogre!

GoodWilfToAllMN Mon 22-Dec-08 21:56:35

Someone else on a similar thread had a reall good tip: kids notice, they said, when we are over-effusive in our praise, so better to note it to someone else in their hearing. I thought this was a brilliant idea and am trying to do it more with my kids so it gives them that 'hey, my mum notices me and knows what I am like an what I'm good at' warm glow...

SpankyouHardOnChristmasNight Mon 22-Dec-08 22:10:04

I agree with the laying it on very thickly that you love him no matter what and that you're incredibly proud of who he is and the fact that he works very hard to do as well as he can.

That's the key thing I think - that what makes you and others proud of his is not so much what he achieves but that he pushes himself to do his best - really highlight attractive personality traits rather than actual measurable skills. Those after all are the things that seem to really go in our favour as they are transferable skills!

MiriPiri Mon 22-Dec-08 22:10:36

Good tip - thanks for that!

I think one of the problems is that DS2 is so full on and in your face that DS1 feels that he struggles to get noticed. I try really hard to make sure he has a voice in the house and is not over-shadowed by DS2.

Being both boys and only 14 months apart they are very competitive, but DS2 has all the confidence in the world so achieves things very easily. He started school in September and is rapidly catching DS1 in reading and maths. It doesn't help that DS1 is the youngest in his class, whereas DS2 is one of the eldest! Poor DS1 can feel DS2 snapping at his heels!

DS1 has started Beavers and when the time comes for DS2 to start I'm going to try and get him into a different Beavers group so DS1 has space from little brother.

Time for bed, thanks for the advice and please keep it coming!

MiriPiri Mon 22-Dec-08 22:14:28

"That's the key thing I think - that what makes you and others proud of his is not so much what he achieves but that he pushes himself to do his best" - very good advice! I really praise him for the achievement, but not always for the trying! I'll try that one.

OK am really going to bed now!

SpankyouHardOnChristmasNight Mon 22-Dec-08 22:17:47

It sounds to me like he is someone who would thrive being the best of a bad bunch rather than being the worst of a good bunch. e.g. will be happier and do better in a lower group than running last in a higher group at school for example. Being the youngest in his year is probably the worst thing for him but once he gets over that, he will be very much better for it!

I really do think that he would benefit hugely from an activity or a sport that he does, that DS2 doesn't (and won't do). How you achieve that I don't know as it would seem unfair to let one do it but not the other. Perhaps they could choose one thing each that they do that the other doesn't?

Is he a bit of a thinker? / nurturer empathetic with other people etc and good and making shy kids feel welcome etc etc? Perhaps you could enrol him on something like a first aid course or something so that he feels he has the edge on the majority of his peers in terms of a very valuable skill that most of his age have no experience of?

FrannyandZooey Mon 22-Dec-08 22:23:23

I can only write from my own limited experience which is that I personally felt suicidal at this age. In retrospect I suffered from depression during my childhood and it was not diagnosed until my late teens (despite taking myself to a doctor in my early teens). By this time the depression was quite severe and I had also developed serious alcohol problems in an attempt to self medicate. It took me years to recover and it is only in the last few years that I have really felt I am free of it.

Sorry if this post is depressing - I am not trying to frighten you but to suggest strongly that you take this seriously and get some kind of help for him now when this could perhaps be nipped in the bud. I would be thinking about family therapy or play therapy as a way of helping him - I believe this is available on the NHS. It's great that you are listening to him and thinking about ways to help him.

SpankyouHardOnChristmasNight Mon 22-Dec-08 22:26:10

Sorry - I have alot to say tonight don't I??

Perhaps completely swap to noticing his approach rather than actual achievements. You say he's behaving as if you're a pushy ogre........it doesn't sound as if you are at all BUT he is obviously reading it like that and that's the important thing. So - if for the forseeable future you talk about his approach and not even mention the actual things he achieved (but let him talk about them obviously), he may start hearing you differently and start to value and measure himself in a different way. He is likely at this age to be 'copy' your values and beliefs if they seem genuine and consistent and not dished out in excess or in a distracted manner.

MiriPiri Tue 23-Dec-08 17:51:54

Don't worry FrannyandZooey everything you have said has crossed my mind - I can see him being a depressed adult. I also spent alot of my childhood feeling low and spent most of my teens in a drunken stupor!

As an adult I never wanted to be noticed and analysed every conversation incase I had said something stupid or offended someone. The turning point for me was sining Hokey Cokey to DS1 in a supermarket queue. I suddenly thought "if I can do this and not care I can do anyting!" I have stopped being anxious about myself, but am now anxious about my children!!

The First Aid course is a great idea - DS1 is very empathetic and would really enjoy doing something that is useful. Are there course for 6 year olds? I'll find out after the boys are in bed.

SpankyouHardonChristmasNight - "It sounds to me like he is someone who would thrive being the best of a bad bunch rather than being the worst of a good bunch. e.g. will be happier and do better in a lower group than running last in a higher group at school for example. Being the youngest in his year is probably the worst thing for him but once he gets over that, he will be very much better for it!" You couldn't be more right. I have toyed with the idea of getting a tutor to help him a bit, but I don't know how he would react to it. There is a huge gap between the eldest and youngest in his class, both academic and maturity.

MiriPiri Tue 23-Dec-08 20:06:47

I can't find a First Aid Course for children younger than 7!

SpankyouHardOnChristmasNight Tue 23-Dec-08 20:39:43

oh no how frustrating!! Can you contact the st John's ambulance near you and see if they can help in any way?

Personally I think no don't get a tutor - he's probably got so much academic stuff on his plate anyway - unless he's really struggling. If being behind is one of his panics, you could ask him if he thinks having a tutor would help him feel better about it all but otherwise you run the risk of making him feel that you think he's failing at it. I would go for the lateral thinking - have a brain blast and think of all non-academic activities that he might be able to relate to and enjoy - the old saying that children learn through play is so so true and I believe this is really strong up to about 8 years old.

Ideas off the top of my head:
Find him a veggie patch where he can grow stuff you all eat.
Horse riding.
Is getting a pet for him an option?
Baking with you (he may chat to you sbout stuff on his mind while you're cooking together.
Go for cycle rides together.
Karate / fencing / self-defence / pottery...

SpankyouHardOnChristmasNight Tue 23-Dec-08 20:41:43

I personally found having other stuff on top of school very reassuring and balancing. If I'd had tutors on top of school I would have been thoroughly depressed and OD'd on academic stuff. You need to find things that are easy to do but with big reward and a bit 'different'...hence the veggie patch idea, though that may not be appropriate!

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