How to boost children’s self-esteem? Try best possible selves interventions!

In the face of the corona pandemic and other stressors, such as the increasing use of social media at a young age, more and more children suffer from depression. The American Psychological Association even speaks of a children’s mental health crisis and calls for the society to act. But how to counteract such developments?

Positive psychology provides possible answers. US researchers have tested two positive psychology interventions, which have already been found to be effective for adults, in elementary school-aged children. They compared the effects of gratitude and best possible selves interventions vs. a control group on positive affect, life satisfaction and self-esteem. Due to the young age of the children and their limited writing skills, the participants expressed themselves by drawing. Specifically, in the best possible selves condition the children were asked to draw pictures of themselves in a future situation in which they were feeling their best. In the gratitude condition they drew something for which they were grateful. In the control condition the children painted a picture showing what they had done that day. In total, the children underwent four to six testing sessions. Prior to the experiment the children’s baseline levels on positive and negative affect, life satisfaction, and self-esteem were collected in individual interviews.

What the researchers found was that the best possible selves intervention was significantly effective in increasing the children’s self-esteem from pre-to-postintervention. Thus, this easily applicable intervention can be a first step to reduce insecurities in children and let them build resilience against future mental difficulties.


Owens, R. L., & Patterson, M. M. (2013). Positive Psychological Interventions for Children: A Comparison of Gratitude and Best Possible Selves Approaches. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 174(4), 403-428.

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