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Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem

February 19, 2014

By Amelia Orozco

A mother and daughter chat happily on a park bench

Today’s equivalent of being ignored is not receiving as many “likes” or “re-tweets” as you may like. Unfortunately for our children, this is paramount in their world. They may feel pressured to conform to being like others, not just in their physical appearance, but also in their online persona.

Recently, I noticed my stepson, who is 12 years old and lives with his mother, using many derogatory terms in his Facebook posts. Graciously, I asked him to stop, to which he complied. This made me think about him and many other children like him, who may behave this way because of their low self-esteem. They are looking for ways to define who they are, to prove how tough they are, or just trying to fit in with the “cool” kids—all attempts to reinforce their self-esteem.

There are certain things that are important to your son or daughter that may seem trivial to you such as a funny video or even what seems to be a childish spat with their friends. One good way to reinforce his or her self-esteem is to listen. I mean, really listen to your child when he or she talks to you. Look directly at your child’s face when he or she is speaking and, if possible, sit down so that you are at the same eye level. This lets your child know he or she is really being heard and that his or her opinion does matter.

When your child feels strong enough to express his or her opinions to you, without the fear of being ridiculed, he or she will willingly share more with you. This is your opportunity to highlight some of his or her special skills or outstanding abilities. You can point out how he or she has such a unique way of looking at things, and how that is something really special. Draw out more conversations from your son or daughter, and you will see there are things he or she may be really good at that you may not have been aware of.

There is almost always a way to turn a seemingly negative situation into a positive learning experience where your son or daughter’s abilities can shine through, raising his or her self-esteem. For example, if your son is complaining because a teammate does not pass the ball during soccer practice, discuss how his frustration can turn into a teaching opportunity. Your son or daughter may be a good coach for a little league team because of their ability to see the big picture when it comes to the game.

Finally, teach your son or daughter to embrace differences, not only of their own, but also of those around them. If your daughter speaks more than one language, encourage her to become fluent. Let her know that because of these differences, she is unique and has much to contribute to society, whether it is face-to-face or online.

Not only will your son or daughter’s self-esteem rise to new levels as he or she learns more about him or herself, but the world will seem much less intimidating as your child is reminded of the important roles he or she plays in it.

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.


Building a Leader

February 17, 2014

By Jessica Vician

A young girl flexes her muscles in superhero garb.

Today is Presidents’ Day, during which we celebrate George Washington’s birthday and honor all United States presidents. Regardless of political affiliations, most of us can agree that each president we elect is a leader. While you might not aspire for your child to become president one day, teaching your child leadership skills will help him or her on the playground, in the classroom, in college, and throughout a career.

Here are three important leadership qualities and skills you can help your child develop.

  1. Listening. Teach your child to be a better listener. When someone speaks or shares an opinion, your child should listen to what that person is saying. Teach him or her to consider the speaker’s opinions before responding.

    Each of us learns more by listening than by speaking. By practicing listening, your child will learn more about people and the topic discussed and can apply that knowledge to future conversations.

  2. Assertiveness. While your child learns to listen to others, he or she should also learn to effectively communicate with others. Teach your child to be politely assertive so that he or she can communicate his or her needs and opinions with others. Being assertive will help your child with his or her own self-respect while also helping manage others.
  3. Set goals. A leader accomplishes many things. In order to do that, he or she must be organized to set and achieve goals. Help younger children set goals like completing five chores a week to teach them time management and the reward of accomplishment. Help teens set longer-term goals like getting four A’s in a term. This type of goal requires longer planning and dedication, but the reward is greater and can positively impact your teen’s future.

As your child develops and practices these skills, he or she will build knowledge, confidence, and self-respect, which are all qualities of a leader.


My daughter is boy crazy and growing up too fast. How can I help her slow down?

February 14, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

Cartoon characters stand in a meadow with hearts around them.

Question: My 12-year-old daughter is boy crazy. She and her friends spend hours talking about celebrity crushes and the boys in their school. I’m worried she’s growing up too fast—this seems like something teenagers do! What can I do to help her slow down?

Answer: With increased exposure to sexuality in the media, it is nearly impossible for children to remain uninfluenced by sexual and romantic culture. Even though your daughter is only 12 years old (a tween), she is one year away from officially being a teenager and therefore is influenced by teenage likes and dislikes.

Crushes are healthy and normal at her age. The fantasy of a celebrity crush is still relatively innocent— your daughter is unlikely to start dating a member of One Direction (or the latest boy band when you read this article). She is exploring her feelings for the opposite gender in a healthy way.

Once she targets those feelings toward boys in her school, it is time to talk to her about dating and what your family feels is appropriate for her age based on your morals and ethics.

At YOU Parent, we suggest that you encourage your daughter to analyze her friendships and romantic relationships. Help her seek positivity and trustworthiness in both her friendships and dating partners. By engaging in open conversations with her about these relationships, you establish trust with her and can encourage her to use good judgment that aligns with your family values when it is time to date.

We discuss teen dating and building healthy relationships in greater detail in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher three-book series. Please refer to pages 42, 64, and 65 in Through High School and Beyond for more information.


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

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