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8 Ways to Improve your Child’s Self Esteem and Body Image

October 20, 2015

As you may have heard, England’s children are close to coming in last when it comes to their happiness. This was found to be due to bullying, poor self-esteem and negative body image and whilst this may seem unsurprising, this survey may have been the wake-up call we needed to start putting some of these tips into action.

1) Work on your own self-esteem
Children don’t do as you say, they do as you do so unconsciously, your child will pick up on your eating habits, how you talk about yourself and how you view yourself. You feeling comfortable in your own skin will go a long way to helping your child feel beautiful themselves.

2) Be wary of social media
As a generation that grew up with social media, I am very aware of what’s out there unlike most parents in older generations. Now, more than ever, it is important to keep an eye on your child’s use of social media with hashtags like #anabuddy and #cutforcut actively promoting both anorexia and self-harm. A quick scroll through instagram will reveal to you just how young these children are, who are actively seeking out a friend with a similar disorder to encourage each other.

3) Remove the labels
It is important to be able to feel all your emotions in order to manage them. The ability to manage your emotions is a crucial life skill and this is aided by not labelling emotions like sadness and anger as ‘bad’ emotions. By removing the labels, this gives them the ability to process the feelings and accept that it is normal to feel the full range of emotions.

4) Never use food as a punishment or a reward
Although this is a common tactic used in parenting, it can set a child up for a dysfunctional relationship with food. If you give them an ice-cream when they have been good, and take away dessert when they don’t eat their vegetables – they will embed the idea that food is a ‘guilty pleasure’, only to be enjoyed as a ‘treat’ which can enhance a negative self-image.

5) Exercise as a family
Get the family moving for the sake of having fun. Build in time to your child’s schedule for sports both with their peers and with your family. Leading an active lifestyle will not only set up healthy habits but will lead to higher self-esteem when the child invests time and energy to practice a sport and see them reap the rewards of enhancing a skill.

6) Allow them to make decisions and say no.
Letting a child make a decision teaches them responsibility and practices their assertiveness. This will be beneficial in teaching them how to set boundaries and stand up for their decisions in the future resulting in a higher level of confidence. Whilst having an opinionated child can make for more difficult parenting, this could be what helps them in a bullying scenario so sometimes the ‘back-chat’ isn’t always bad. As long as it is said with respect, having an opinion can stand them in good stead.

7) Compliment the good, ignore the bad
Focus on your child’s skills and abilities and put an emphasis on that. Every child needs attention so just make sure that you give them the most when they are succeeding. If you give them more attention when they misbehave than when they behave, you will see them continue to misbehave. Reverse it and you will boost their self-esteem!

8) Compliment yourself more!
As much as complimenting them with help their confidence, complimenting yourself and your skills will show them that it is acceptable to take pride in yourself and removes the stigma of being arrogant. Small comments like “I think this is the best meal I have ever cooked” or “I love this dress, it always makes me feel good about myself” will make it acceptable for them to do the same!