Youths today often struggle with self-confidence and body-image issues. In a recent survey by the NYU Child Study Center 59% of girls in 5th to 12th grade responded that they were dissatisfied with their body shape. However, negative body image impacts young boys, too. The media, peers and pop culture are all influencing factors in a child’s personal development, but it’s still the parents who play the greatest role.
Here are some ways you can help your children to believe in themselves:
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Counteract the impact that television and magazines may have on your child by using them to start a healthy dialogue. Education.com encourages parents to ask their children such questions as:
- Has an advertisement ever made you feel that you or others would like yourself more if your appearance were altered?
- Do you worry about your looks?
- What makes someone “beautiful”?
You could then start a conversation about the value of inner beauty and that a person’s worth isn’t defined by what he or she looks like, but by who he or she is inside.
Expose Your Child to a Range of Activities
Introducing your daughter or son to various activities is a great way to help your child discover personal interests. Avoid preconceived notions about what your child’s hobbies should be, based on your child’s gender or your own interests. Allow girls and boys to try building something, cooking a family recipe, playing competitive sports, or undertaking an art or crafts project. Let your child decide what activities he or she gravitates toward or might life to explore.
Help Your Children to Find Answers and to Make Choices
As a parent, you likely feel a desire to help your child succeed in all undertakings. However, children often build confidence by finding the answers, not by having the answers handed to them. Let your child take the lead on his or her homework, test preparation or class project, but act as a helping hand and facilitator. This lets your child know that you’re available for support, but not to do the work for your child.
Encourage Positive Thinking
What’s the best way to build your child’s self- esteem? Set a healthy example. Confident moms make confident girls, says Haley Kilpatrick, founder of Girl Talk, a nonprofit organization that connects middle-school girls with high-school mentors. The same article in The Washington Post also quoted Kilpatrick as finding that parents are often surprised when told that their children monitor what they do, especially within social media networks such as Facebook. If parents need to vent, Kilpatrick advises, consider saving your comments for private conversations with other adults.
As a family, celebrate family members’ accomplishments, big or small, by making a favorite recipe, crafting a homemade card or providing an encouraging word.
Doing so will reinforce the fact that they should believe in themselves because you believe in them, too.