As I read about National Mentoring Month this morning, I thought back to a day in 5th grade when my teacher talked to us about self-esteem. “You see this is the self-esteem balloon”, she said gesturing to a big red balloon she was holding. When someone says something hurtful, or when you don’t feel good about yourself, it deflates. As she let air out of the balloon, I remembered the way it felt when my self-esteem was hurt.
The truth is- self-esteem, the collections of feelings or beliefs we have about ourselves, forms very early on. Just yesterday my 2 year old son told me he couldn’t pull up his pants because it was too hard. Of course I put on my cheerleader hat, encouraging him and giving him direction to do it on his own, easy-peasy. It’s important that my son feels good about going to the “big boy potty”, and it’s important that he is proud and confident with his newly discovered independence in this area because in the long run it’s part of his self-esteem.
“Just as there are important physical milestones that indicate children are developing normally, there are also important emotional milestones that are necessary for healthy development,” says Dr. Melisa Holmes, OB/GYN and Co-founder of Girlology. “When a child talks, walks, potty trains or rides a bike, parents see those accomplishments as exciting and brag-worthy. What about when a child accomplishes a sense of safety, self-confidence and self-acceptance? We don’t typically cheer for or even notice these emotional milestones, but they are critical to healthy development, which includes developing healthy sexuality.”
Brad Bushman, a researcher at Ohio State, conducted a study proving that students valued boosts to their self-esteem such as receiving good grades or compliments more than any other experiences. More than any craving or motivation, self-perception takes the cake. So if youth have recognized that their self-esteem has a higher value than sex, shouldn’t we be mentoring them about healthy relationships, and how to value and care for their bodies early on in life?
Age-appropriate comprehensive sex education anyone?
We’ve all heard the expression; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is better to educate and mentor our youth to support a happy full self-esteem balloon, rather than struggle in effort to re-inflate the balloon after a teen has become pregnant and/or contracted an STI.
“Knowledge is healthful, it’s going to lead the young person to better choices in their life” says Dr. Lilly Filler, OB/GYN and founder of Women Physicians Associates. It’s fair to say that access to education and mentoring go hand in hand in the path to helping our youth become the future leaders they are meant to be in our society.
The bottom line is that a positive self-esteem is paramount to healthy development. If we mentor our youth, and we provide the full range of education they deserve, than we are doing everything we can to support are care for their self-esteem. It is after all, vital in securing a brighter future for our community as whole.
To learn how you can help by mentoring a child please visit:
Dr. Melisa Holmes:
Study: Youth Crave Self-Esteem
Dr. Lilly Filler: