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Cultivating Positive Self-Image in Children

How we see ourselves is described as our self-image and how we feel about and value ourselves is defined as our self-esteem. Both are critical to our happiness, healthy functioning, and developing healthy relationships. Cultivating one’s self-image and self-esteem is a major element of childhood development and an ongoing process throughout life. Children with childhood trauma can be more vulnerable to esteem and image issues—but there are ways we can work with them to increase confidence. 

If your child is processing trauma or abandonment issues, it is especially important to instill a sense of value and self-love. You can do that by creating a safe home environment centered around positive language and reinforcement. Being consistent with language, communication, and follow-through can help build a steadier, more grounded environment in which your children can thrive. 

When it comes to praise or acknowledgment, be specific. Instead of saying, “Good job on cleaning your room; it looks great!” you could offer, “Your room looks awesome—I especially noticed that you straightened up your closet.” This calls attention to something specific and positive that your child has done. Offering positive reinforcement and acknowledging little details in your child’s choices and actions can help enhance a positive view of themselves. 

When a child struggles at school or in their personal life, it’s not uncommon for their self-esteem takes a hit. This is also a teaching moment. You must acknowledge their feelings and draw attention to their areas of strength—which they may not be focusing on, especially if they’re feeling low or insecure. One way to contribute: You can explain that not everyone excels at everything; perhaps evening drawing on an area where you as an adult fall short. It’s a jumpstart into a conversation about what your child likes, excels at, and makes them happy. Find activities or extracurricular clubs that fit into your child’s nature, skill set, and ability level and reinforce their success with honest praise. You don’t need to go over the top—it should feel genuine and authentic. An honest acknowledgment of a job well done has immense power to increase feelings of positivity and pride.