You might remember a time as a kid when a cellphone resembled more of a brick, and you could run outside and scrape your knee without your mom making a fuss. If you were glued to anything technological, it was video games.
Nowadays, your kids have to deal with social media pressure — being constantly on and responsive to every little thing on the internet.
Self-image issues have moved beyond teen magazine spreads and television ads — My Little Pony certainly got skinnier over the years. A new app or social media challenge could threaten your child’s safety and self-image, but this is the risk of growing up with constantly evolving technology. If your child’s not online, they likely has no social life, which also affects self-image and social development. It’s a tough catch-22 to navigate with your child.
You hope with all your heart they’ll trust in themselves to do the right thing and come to you when they worry or feel unsafe. Having the right tools in place will help them navigate the new age of social media pressure. Here are six ways to cultivate your child’s positive self-image.
1. Work on Yourself
Children are impressionable, and their whole world revolves around yours. How your child sees you interact and react plays a significant part in their self-development and self-worth. Life runs rampant, and it’s easy to get annoyed with circumstances beyond your control, letting that affect how you communicate with your child. Constantly criticizing their mistakes or innate characteristics brings a child’s self-esteem down, and it impacts their relationships in adulthood.
- What do you criticize yourself for aloud and in your head?
- Challenge negative self-talk, and breathe before talking with your child.
- Do you have other passions and interests you maintain?
- Work on yourself to help your child grow a positive self-image.
2. Family Means No One Is Left Behind
Who doesn’t love to rewatch “Lilo and Stitch?” The movie reveals that family is more than blood and no one is left behind. Everyone belongs and has a place, especially in the hearts of other family members.
Your child should feel like they belong in your family and play an important role. They need a strong foundation, but also freedom to explore their unique talents and interests. They must remain free to make mistakes and always find comfort in that sense of love and belonging.
- Share with your children what you love about your family.
- Ask what they love about your dynamic together.
3. Let Your Child Share
Encourage open communication from a young age by encouraging your child to share. They can draw a picture about their feelings or dance it out. As soon as they can talk, encourage them to speak up for themselves.
All those “no!” statements are pieces of valid self-perspective, even when you know they need to eat more broccoli! It’s part of the total package of parenthood.
4. Encourage Activities
Cultivate a strong and positive self-image by encouraging your child to explore activities through school and community programs. You can also explore private group lessons, or create your own mini-adventures and invite the neighborhood kids along. Your child should explore interests on their own but also with their peer groups to learn to stand by their interests strongly and learn how to bond with others.
5. Let Them Act Their Age
Don’t expect children to act like little adults — they’re kids. Encourage their curiosity because it grows their self-image and ability to rationalize, and those endless questions develop their minds and emotions. It shows your child realizes there are things they don’t know about the world, and of course, they want to know more.
Cultivating curiosity while answering their questions from a young age helps create a balanced self-image. It develops trust between you and your child while empowering them to think through and respond to situations without the influence of others. Your child will learn to ask questions of others that may not have their best interest at heart.
6. Do Social Media Together
As your child enters their teenage years, your lives will grow more separate, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still share an important bond. Your child increasingly acts on their own autonomy as they age, and you must trust them.
Social media is still an overwhelming place for young minds and personalities. Nothing is anonymous. Let them know that you will be involved with them on social media every step of the way. Set parental controls from a young age but ease off as the years go by. Let your child bring up sites and apps they’d like to use and research them together. Let your child know they can come to you when tricky peer situations arise and that you will withhold judgment.
The world is now a place where children grow up involved in social media from birth. Navigating social media pressure as a family while trying to help your child develop a positive self-image presents challenges.
You want them to grow up as individuals with a strong sense of confidence and independence, but you also don’t want to be too far away if something happens that threatens their safety or self-image. It’s hard to walk that fine line and develop trust, but you can use these tips to help your child feel strong and wise from a young age.
Jennifer Landis is a healthy-live blogger, millennial mom, and freelance writer who enjoys yoga, red wine, and dark chocolate. She writes about mindfulness, parenting, and clean eating on her blog Mindfulness Mama. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.