8 Tips for Encouraging Self-Esteem in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

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Children with hearing loss face many obstacles growing up. Early development of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-acceptance are instrumental to their success. Use these tips at home and share them with professionals working with your child.
1. Let the child speak. Let the child speak for himself as often as possible even if his language is limited. Be patient and listen attentively. By doing this, you are validating that what the child wants or needs is important and that he is capable of communicating for himself. You will also be demonstrating important skills attentiveness, listening and interacting.

2. Treat the child the same. Treat the deaf or hearing impaired child the same as you would a child with normal hearing. Children are very perceptive. Giving in to a child, pitying him or making things easier for him can all backfire later. Never use the child's hearing loss as an excuse for inappropriate behavior. Other children in the family or classroom may also become resentful for any "special" treatment that is given to a deaf or hearing impaired child. Or, they may learn by example and treat the child differently than their other friends and acquaintances.

3. Teach the child manners. Teach the child about manners and forming friendships as early as possible. As soon as your child is able, make sure he can properly introduce himself and be able to ask other children, "What's your name?" While younger peer friendships are often comprised more of physical activities than language interaction, children may be wary of approaching your child to play because he wears hearing aids, has a cochlear implant or doesn't speak as well as others. Help your child learn how to initiate contact with other children by role modeling and practicing often. By preparing your child, he will become comfortable making new friends. This is an important skill that will serve him well both personally and professionally throughout his lifetime.

4. Teach the child about hearing loss. When your child is able to understand, explain why he wears hearing aids or a cochlear implant and possibly an FM listening system and what these devices do for him. When a peer inservice is done for his class or camp group, include the hearing impaired child. Let him demonstrate the devices he uses to the other children. Your child should feel proud of what is a necessary part of his life. By participating in the demonstration with his peers, your child will be setting the tone for how he expects others to treat him.

5. Discover the child's interests and develop them. Introduce the child to a variety of activities and find the ones he enjoys. Help him cultivate his interests by signing him up for classes, joining clubs or doing the activities as frequently as possible. This can be athletics, music, dance, writing, photography, art, cooking, etc. A child's self-confidence soars when he learns a new skill or hobby. Both you and your child will be proud of his accomplishments.

6. Avoid labeling. Do not use a child's hearing loss as a descriptive term unless it is necessary to the discussion. Some children and their parents may be offended by having them referred to by their physical challenge. Remember, the child is many things, not just deaf or hearing impaired.

7. Teach the child self-acceptance. Don't hide the hearing aids, cochlear implant or assistive listening device. Make these devices a natural part of the child's daily life. It is important for both his self-esteem as well as his hearing benefit. If you try to protect the child by covering up his assistive devices, he will come to believe that they should always be kept hidden and they are something to be ashamed of. A child who cannot accept his hearing loss will encounter much more difficult obstacles as life goes on.

8. Acknowledge both success and attempts at success. One of the best ways to boost your child's self-confidence is to acknowledge his academic and social efforts whether they are successful or not. By doing this, you are showing him that your love is unconditional and not based on the outcome of his efforts. Motivation to try should not be inspired by the possibility of a reward from the parent or teacher. Offer the child praise, not money or gifts, for both his efforts and his achievements. This way, the child will not feel that he deserves praise or love only when he accomplishes what he set out to do.

Children with hearing loss often face many obstacles growing up. Early development of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-acceptance are instrumental to their success. Use these tips at home and share them with the professionals who work with your child. Together you can ensure a bright, confident future for your child.

© 2002-2003 Paula Rosenthal and Taylor Rose, Inc.

About the Author

Paula Rosenthal, J.D. is married and has two children. She, her husband and daughter are all hearing impaired. Her son has normal hearing. A law school graduate, Paula is the publisher of http://www.HearingExchange.com, an online community for people with hearing loss, parents of deaf and hard of hearing children and professionals. She is also a writer and speaker on hearing loss and related issues. To contact her, send an email to publisher@hearingexchange.com.

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