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Self Esteem: Building a Positive Body Image

February 11, 2014

By Lorena Villa Parkman

A teen looks at herself in the mirror.

How can you help your child or teen develop a positive body image, good self-esteem, and maintain a healthy lifestyle all at the same time? This is a challenging issue for all parents, but we are capable of helping boost a child’s self-confidence and help him or her keep it for life.

For many people, especially preteens and teenagers, body image is closely related to self-esteem. Since their bodies are changing, preteens and teenagers are usually more self-conscious and vulnerable to what others might think of them. Remember that as a parent you have more influence than you think in helping your child get through this confusing time of his or her life.

Here are five tips to help your child have a healthier body image:

  1. Be a role model and accept your own body. Remember that both young children and teens model the behavior they see and hear at home. This means he or she will probably also model your attitude toward your body. So if you're complaining about your belly fat, your frizzy hair or your bad skin, your child will follow and find similar flaws in his or her body. Also be mindful of how you talk about other people’s bodies.
  2. Encourage activities that make your child feel good. This will shift the focus to your child’s abilities rather than to his or her physical appearance. Exercise will help your child feel good about his or her body. Remind your child that this is about being fit—not necessarily thin—and about focusing on health rather than appearance.
  3. Help your child understand that bodies change and that there is no ideal body shape. Help your teen recognize that we all come in different shapes and sizes. Focus on how strong, agile, or healthy his or her body is and talk about all the things that it’s capable of doing. If you believe your child is over or underweight, check with his or her health provider instead of making assumptions.
  4. Praise your child. Children, as well as teens, need to hear you tell them how good they are at the things they like. Describe exactly what you liked about something that your child accomplished and use praise to highlight positive character traits and talents. Your child will soon focus more on his or her character and values than on his or her physical appearance, building a healthy self-image.
  5. Encourage your whole family to be healthy. If your child sees that the whole family is trying to have a better and healthier self-image, it will be easier for him or her to follow. You can make simple changes like avoiding fast food, buying or cooking nutritious meals and exercising together.

If a healthy lifestyle becomes part of your family practices, your child will model these good habits throughout his or her life and keep a positive self-image thanks to a wholesome approach.


How to Be Affectionate with Your Child

February 10, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

A mother hugs her son.

As a parent, there may come a time when you realize that however unlikely it seemed, you are just like your mother or father. If your parents were extremely affectionate, then there is good chance you are, too. However, if your parents or caregivers were not affectionate with you as a child, it may be difficult to show affection to your child.

I have worked with several young mothers who are scared to display love toward their children. Some are stressed, others lack confidence to attempt new bonding activities, and others find themselves lost. My goal with these parents is to guide them through the wonderful journey of parenting by coaching them through simple bonding activities that eventually strengthen their relationships with their children. I am glad to share these simple ideas with you.

Remember that your children love you no matter what. Their love is unconditional and they are naturally wired to bond. Try the following ideas and you may find yourself enjoying a bonding experience with your child.

  • Disconnect and Connect. Turn off your phone and/or electronics around you to be able to give your child your undivided attention. Make your child feel important and let him or her know that he or she is your priority. Begin doing this for ten minutes and work your time up to 30 minutes a day when time permits. Play and talk with your child and praise his or her efforts without corrections to make this a positive experience. Praise is a form of displaying affection. A simple “great job” or “you are beautiful” goes a long way.
  • Reading Date. Create a designated time in your routine and schedule to sit down and read together with your child. Make your special reading area cozy and comfortable. Sitting together can give you opportunities to hug your child and promote literacy.
  • Bathtime Fun. Use your bathtub as your indoor swimming pool. Have fun indoors even in cold weather. You can splash, play, and bond in the bathtub. You and your child are in small space cooperating together and having fun. You can share smiles and bond.
  • Walk and Talk. Taking walks will allow you and your child to exercise and initiate conversation about anything. Hold hands if your child is young and use opportunities to display your love toward him or her by kissing your child’s cheek, hand, or forehead.
  • Hugging Time. Make traditions to hug each other during different times of the day. Hug during your morning greeting, after breakfast, after a nap, and before bedtime. Encourage your child to initiate hugging during other times too. Never decline a hug from your child.

Do not stress or overthink when you bond with your child. Keep your child’s best interest in mind and have fun. You will do great!

"Try to see your child as a seed that came in a packet without a label. Your job is to provide the right environment and nutrients and to pull the weeds. You can’t decide what kind of flower you’ll get or in which season it will bloom." – Anonymous


My son won’t share anything with me. How can I get him to speak to me?

February 7, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A son puts his hand up to stop his mother from speaking to him.

Question: My 10-year-old son won't tell me about his day or talk to me about anything. How can I get him to speak to me?

Answer: Sometimes children don’t want to share with their parents, whether they’re teenagers, toddlers, or in between. There are many reasons, from shyness to privacy wishes. Whatever the cause, it’s still important to speak with your son daily about his life, even if it’s just a few sentences at dinner.

Here are some quick ways you can sneak in a conversation with him.

  • Tell him about your day. Often times sharing about you will prompt him to talk about himself.
  • Watch TV. Sit with him and watch one of his television shows and ask questions about the plot or characters. He might share his thoughts on the show as well. A word of warning: you might want to wait until a commercial so you don’t interrupt and aggravate him.
  • Visit someplace new. Take your son to dinner at a new restaurant and ask about his food. If his initial response is one word, ask more detailed questions. Why did he choose a cheeseburger instead of pizza? What’s his favorite cheese?

While he talks, listen to his tone. Is it normal for him? If so, then he might just be going through a phase where he doesn’t share much with his parent(s). If he sounds upset or angry when answering normal questions, or avoids answering them, he might be dealing with a problem. Find a quiet, safe place to speak with him about it. Tell him you noticed he hasn’t been himself lately and you want to help him. If he’s not receptive, you may want to speak with his teacher or school counselor to see if they have any insight into what could be wrong.

For more information on speaking with your child of any age, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher three-book set. For information on speaking to younger children, see pages 46 and 60 in Through The Early Years. See pages 43 and 77 in Through Elementary and Middle School for newer ways to interact with your child. If you are worried that your child is suffering from depression or struggling with peers, see page 64 in the same book and reach out to a school counselor for additional help.


Building Healthy Teen Relationships

February 5, 2014

By Nely Bergsma

Build healthy teen relationships

Building healthy teen relationships can be one of the more challenging responsibilities we as parents and mentors of teens have. The teen years are a period of great physical and emotional growth for children. Up until this period in their lives, most children have likely remained close to home, guided by their parents. As they enter and journey through the teen years they become more independent of their parents and rely more on themselves, their friends, and their peers. What can we as parents and mentors do to assure that our teenagers will build healthy relationships and make good choices?

Teens must learn communication, boundaries, trust, and respect for one’s self and for one another. We set the examples. If we do not communicate effectively, our teenagers may not turn to us with any problems they may encounter. They in turn may not be able to communicate in their personal relationships in a positive way—they may withhold their feelings or perhaps act out in anger. Have a conversation with your teenager; take time to listen to what he or she is saying. Offer guidance more than advice or opinions.

If we do not set boundaries, our teenagers may encounter difficulties in understanding the consequences of their actions in the relationship they have with others and make poor choices. Set curfews, assign household chores, and hold your teenager accountable for meeting his or her responsibilities. Reward your teen with praise and encouragement.

And lastly, if we as parents and mentors do not set examples of trust and respect, our teenager may be at risk of not trusting and respecting themselves or others, resulting in unhealthy relationships. Trust and respect your teenager in your words and actions.

While the teen years can be challenging, they can also be exciting and joyous. Both parent/mentor and child need to remain aware, stay balanced in their opinions and be conscious in their choices in order to build healthy teen relationships.


How can I teach my children the value of money?

January 31, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

Children with piggy banks

Question: My kids think money grows on trees. They think they're entitled to the latest toys and video games as soon as they come out, but I want them to work for nice things and earn them. How do I teach them to appreciate the value of money?

Answer: As a parent, it’s normal to want to give our children everything we can, especially those of us who grew up not having a lot things. We feel we need to compensate, but we have to be aware to not fall into that trap. Create a balance between what you give them and when you give it to them.

One of the first things that your children should learn is the importance of money. They need to understand the difficulties of earning it. Try giving them a certain amount of money for every age-appropriate chore they accomplish. Let them learn that they will only get money if they work hard for it.

Depending on their ages, you can apply the following strategy: suggest that your kids save up to pay half the cost of what they want and you’ll pay for the other half. If they want the item, they should be willing to earn it. Kids need to learn that if they really want something, they should wait and save in order to buy it. This strategy will also get them into the habit of thinking before spending.

Teaching your children how to save and manage money wisely will help them face future financial hurdles. You can even start teaching your children to save when they are toddlers. They probably receive birthday cards with money or checks from relatives during special occasions. Open a savings account for them and let them watch it grow. Have your children set a long-term goal for something more expensive than the toys, candy, or clothes they might have been saving for.

While you are working on helping them understand the value of money, you can use this opportunity to talk to them about the importance of donating to charities. Later in life, they will be in the habit of donating to those in need, which will help them value what they have. What kids learn about giving during childhood will last a lifetime.

Parents are the main influence on their children’s financial behaviors, so it’s our responsibility to raise a generation of conscious buyers, savers, and benefactors.

You can learn more about the issues addressed in this question in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series. For information about teaching your child financial responsibilities, see the Through High School and Beyond book on page 40.

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