Elementary-school years are a defining time for children. They’re learning about themselves as well as the characteristics, abilities, interests and values that define them. At the same time, they’re being influenced by external factors like friends, media and pop culture.

It’s also a time when children develop their sense of self. In fact, a recent study found that children’s self-esteem, or how they feel about themselves, is established by kindergarten and remains relatively stable into adulthood.

Unfortunately, some children begin to experience low self-esteem during this stage. They start to compare themselves to others, feel the pressure of increased expectations and desire approval from trusted adults. In some cases, bullying may also contribute to low self-esteem.

Children with low self-esteem:

  • Lack confidence
  • Feel insecure in comparison to their peers
  • Feel self-critical and are hard on themselves
  • Doubt their ability to do things well

And despite the cause, having a poor sense of self early on can lead to a number of negative emotions (like unhappiness, anxiety, anger and shame), a lack of effort and low academic achievement. And these negative effects can impact children throughout their lives.

One way to counteract low self-esteem in students is by using positive affirmations. By saying affirmations - whether out loud or mentally - students can build confidence, think positively and boost their self-esteem.

The Benefits of Positive Affirmations for Students

Although some may doubt its effectiveness, there’s evidence proving that practicing positive affirmations can help improve a person’s self-esteem.

Another study found that affirmations can decrease stress, increase well being, improve academic performance and encourage behavior change.

With positive affirmations, students learn to identify their values and reinforce those values when negative thoughts or emotions arise. Affirmations also require students to reflect on their thoughts, helping them to be more self-aware. In either case, positive affirmations train students to evaluate their self-talk, determine whether it’s constructive or destructive and act accordingly.

How to Use Positive Affirmations in Your Program

Although parents are encouraged to promote and nurture healthy self-esteem at home, program leaders can help foster a positive sense of self in students using positive affirmations.

One way is to read affirmations aloud each day and have students repeat them. Alternatively, you can post daily, weekly or monthly affirmations to a bulletin board for students to use, discuss and apply to their self-talk.

Students can also create their own affirmation cards to keep in their desks, at home or in their backpacks. The key is to encourage them to repeat at least one positive affirmation several times throughout the day in order to be effective.

15 Positive Affirmations for Young Students

To help you get started, we’ve rounded up 15 of our favorite positive affirmations to share with your students:

  1. I learn from my mistakes.
  2. I love myself even though sometimes I fail.
  3. Every day brings new opportunities.
  4. Whatever I do, I give my best.
  5. I can become whatever I want to be.
  6. I have the courage to be myself.
  7. I play an important role in the world.
  8. I have lots of friends who love me.
  9. Every problem has an answer.
  10. I’m determined to reach my goals.
  11. I enjoy learning new things.
  12. I am a winner.
  13. I believe in myself and my abilities.
  14. I trust myself to make the right decisions.
  15. I deeply love and accept myself.

Nurturing a healthy self-esteem is a critical part of a child’s development. By using positive affirmations, program leaders can play a role in helping students develop positive feelings about themselves. What strategies do you use to build students’ self-esteem?