Self Esteem In Children

Invest in Your Child's Self-Esteem

Self-esteem and healthy eating. What does one thing have to do with the other? Everything.

Children rely on eating disorders to serve as coping tools, as “solutions” to what would otherwise feel like insurmountable problems. Children who are adept problem-solvers, who have access to their feelings and needs, and who can demonstrate the capacity to get their needs met have no use for an eating disorder in their emotional repertoire. The confident child who experiences self worth, and who is capable of valuing and effectively caring for herself is also the least likely candidate to succumb to peer and media pressures, food fears, body image concerns, and disordered eating, all of which could become precursors to the onset of eating disorders in the susceptible child.

A child’s poor self-esteem is evident in the tendency to be overly self-critical, perfectionist or concerned with appearance and body image, or an unresponsive to the challenges and requirements of life and living and the emerging self.

Building self esteem in your child:

Self-esteem comes from making a contribution to the world around one, to the community of the home and of the greater world beyond its borders. It comes from developing interests and passions, from being valued, respected, heard, and accepted. It comes from a fearless acceptance of interpersonal differences, and the fearless capacity to work them through, beyond conflict to compromise. Self-esteem comes from a sense of belonging and a loving connection to other human beings.

Creating a healthy sense of self in a child is a process that begins for parents at the moment of their child’s birth and that continues, in various forms, throughout the child’s development. It is never too late to nurture self-esteem in the insecure child. The following are ways to convey to your child just how unique and exceptional you feel she is. Through such activities, kids learn what pleasure you derive from spending time with them, and grasp a vision of the culture of the greater world extending beyond themselves, beyond their own personal concerns, beyond their physical appearance and tummy size.

Twelve ways to build self esteem through interaction with your child

1. Connect with your child and spend quality time, finding substantive ways to interact and engage with him or her.

2. Provide your child with meaningful life values and genuine connectedness. Spend a weekend morning volunteering together at a neighborhood nature preserve.

3. See a play together and discuss it afterwards, distribute meals at a center for the homeless, take a course together at your local planetarium. Attend church or synagogue services together.

4. Emphasize enjoyment of the activity, rather than performance.

5. Encourage your child to take control of important aspects of her life and to make her own decisions where appropriate. Do not be afraid to provide limits appropriately and consistently throughout your child’s growing up years and into her adolescence; your child will eventually internalize these external controls, enabling her to develop a sense of authenticity and freedom. Given too much autonomy too soon, a child becomes fearful, tentative and uncomfortably over-powerful.

6. Model healthy, balanced, and meaningful living and problem solving. Do not shy away from conflict or individual differences, as these are the stuff of life, an inevitable aspect of intimate relationships. There is no better time for a child to observe and practice successful conflict resolution, to feel accepted and heard, than within the safety of home and family.

7. In sitting around the dinner table with your child, find out what he or she has been thinking about, how he or she is feeling, what she is up to, what her priorities may be today. Eating together is a great way to get to know your child and her concerns, not to mention how he or she is feeling about food and eating. Never model behavioral (food or exercise related) extremes of any kind.

8. Listen for any negative comments your child may make about body shape or size. If you hear concerns, don’t negate them, but rather initiate discussion about how she feels she might look better and why her concerns.

9. Educate your child about the wise reliability of well cared-for bodies… how normal it is for girls to put on 20% of body weight in fat during puberty, how certain aspects of our body image qualities lay within our control (such as good nutrition and exercise) and others do not (genetics and heredity), and how dangerous dieting can be.

10. Be careful not to complain about your own weight and body image concerns in front of your child.

11. Develop in your child a critical “immunity” to media messages. Teach her to see through the subliminal and subversive messages. Cancel your subscriptions to fashion magazines and weight- focused women’s magazines. Turn off the television, especially during meals.

12. Respect your child’s hunger and satiety. Eliminate the “clean plate club.” Though you as a parent are responsible for providing nutritious and varied foods and for expecting your child to eat them, do not attempt to limit or control the amounts your child eats. Compared with mothers of girls with no eating problems, mothers of girls who become bulimic tend to restrict what their daughters eat, encourage them to diet and exercise to lose weight and to perceive them as overweight, according to a 1993 study at the University of Missouri.

Do not succumb to the commonly held and misconceived fear that kids are born spontaneously competent and that parental input as the child matures becomes superfluous and interfering. Your child needs you as much in her adolescence as she did as an infant, if not more. Though the quality and nature of the parent/child attachment will change through time and life stages, the connection must never fail.

By Abigail Natenshon (sourced from the World Wide Web)

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