The foundations of a strong self-esteem are established early in childhood and is important to safeguard a child’s self-esteem through the adolescent period and into adulthood. In addition to the everyday challenges that children face, children with hearing loss often encounter communication difficulties that can make social interaction challenging and to lead to secondary problems such as social isolation, behavioral issues, and depression. It becomes important for the professionals who work with these families to be aware of this risk and arm themselves and parents with the knowledge and tools necessary to help their hearing impaired children develop positive feelings of self worth. The good news is that teaching these skills doesn’t have to cost a lot of time and money. Providing parents and caretakers with guidelines can help them turn everyday moments into learning opportunities.
Here are a few tips for encouraging self-esteem in children who are deaf or hard of hearing:
- Let the child speak
Let the child speak for himself. Be a patient listener. This not only shows the child that he has important needs that he is capable of communicating, it also gives the child an excellent first-hand model of how to be an attentive listener during social interactions.
- Treat the child the same
Treat the deaf or hearing impaired child the same as you would any other child. Giving in to a child, pitying her or making things easier for her can lead to behavior problems down the road. A child’s hearing loss should never be an excuse for inappropriate behavior. Having the same expectations for the child with hearing loss will help prevent resentment from other children in the family or classroom as well as provide other children with a great example of how to develop friendships with a child who has hearing loss.
- Teach the child manners
Teach the child about manners and forming friendships as early as possible. Some children may be wary about approaching another child with hearing aids, cochlear implants, or limited language. Help your child learn how to initiate contact with other children by role modeling and practicing. By preparing your child, he can be comfortable making new friends – a very important life skill both personally and professionally.
- Teach the child about hearing loss
When your child is able to understand, teach her about the different devices she uses and what they do for her. Include her when any peer inservice is done by letting her demonstrate how she uses them to her peers. Your child should feel proud of what is a necessary part of her life. By allowing her to participate, she will also set the tone for how she expects others to treat her.
- Discover and develop the child’s interests
Introduce a variety of activities and find the ones he enjoys to help cultivate his interests. Knowing there are things we excel in is a key piece to self-esteem. Your child’s self-confidence will soar when he learns a new skill or hobby and you can both be proud of his accomplishments.
- Avoid labeling
Do not use a child’s hearing loss as a descriptive term unless it is necessary to the discussion. Some parents and children may become offended by doing this. Remember, the child is many things, not just deaf or hearing impaired.
- Teach the child self-acceptance
Do not hide the hearing aids, cochlear implants, or assistive listening devices. Allowing your child to help choose colors or add stickers will help give him ownership over the devices. Make these necessary devices a party of the child’s daily life. Trying to protect the child by covering up his assistive devices will show him that they are something to be ashamed of. A child who cannot accept his hearing loss will encounter more difficult obstacles as life goes on.
- Acknowledge both success and attempts at success
Acknowledge academic and social efforts whether they are successful or not. This helps to show the child that your love is unconditional and not based on the outcome of his efforts. He will learn that failure is not something to fear, but rather an opportunity to learn from and improve. Motivation to try should not be inspired by the possibility of reward from the parent or teacher. Offer praise, not money or gifts, for both efforts and achievements. This way, the child will not feel that he deserves praise or love only when he accomplishes what he set out to do.
Harvey, M. (2011). Externalizing hearing loss through art. Audiology Today, May 2011.
Kaland, M. & Salvatore, K. (2002). The psychology of hearing loss. ASHA Leader, March 19, 2002.
Rosenthal, J.D. (2009). Tips for encouraging self-esteem in children who are deaf or hard of hearing. www.hearingexchange.com