Self-esteem is such a difficult topic. When should we start addressing it? I believe the earlier the better. A friend mentioned that her six year old was worried what others think of her with serious effects.
Many of our perceptions of ourselves are developed during our formative years. I’m sure you can quickly think of a story of feeling criticized. What kind of self-esteem do you want your children to have? What are you modeling to them? You can’t tell them they are beautiful while you disparage yourself. Human beings are smarter than that. We learn what we are shown. To further my dream of changing self-esteem for the better, here are five ways you can help grow their self-esteem in a healthy way.
1. Teach them that the definition of beautiful is up to them.
How we see people should be as much about trying to see their souls as it is about external appearances. When you start trying to see other people at their core you start to see yourself in a more forgiving and loving light.
2. Show them that the images they see are retouched to an extreme degree.
Watch this Dove commercial. If you think it’s appropriate, watch it with your children. Watch America’s Next Top Model. Fast forward through the terrible cat fights. The photo shoots require long times in hair and makeup and custom clothing from famous designers. The photo shoots require an army of people to build sets, light it, and give each girl the opportunity to model.
3. Teach them not to compare themselves to others.
From possessions to physical appearance. Praise them for doing things that expand their heart. If you catch them being generous or kind with another child, commend them for it.
4. There’s beauty all around us.
Get them an age appropriate camera and encourage them to record things they find beautiful. Butterflies, patterns in a sidewalk and nature are just a few ideas. This will be an important exercise to develop their own sense of what is “beautiful” instead of making what we see on TV and in magazines their beauty ideal. This is a great way to capture their world and scrapbook their changing ages.
5. Tell them you find them beautiful/handsome.
This idea gets criticized as being shallow, but I mean for it to complement the other points. Some children aren’t told they are beautiful. Sometimes we think, “Well they must know!” But everyone, young and old, wants and needs to hear it.