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5 ways to build a positive self-image in children

Encourage positive self-perception in children through beneficial experiences, says a child psychologist



In today’s society, it can be easy to feel the pressure to look a certain way. Social media, advertisements, and even friends and family can influence our perception of our bodies. However, building a healthy body image is crucial for our mental and physical well-being.

Healthy body image means accepting and loving your body, regardless of its shape or size. It’s about focusing on your health, rather than your appearance. Having a healthy body image has been linked to lower rates of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. On the other hand, negative body image can lead to a range of physical and mental health problems, including low self-esteem, disordered eating, and even suicidal thoughts.

“Altruistic acts like feeding stray dogs or planting trees give a sense of purpose to the child and build a positive self-image. Encourage helping acts in the daily routine and appreciate their kindness and uniqueness”

Hemanti Mangal, Child Psychologist, Director, Healing Nest Foundation & Alumna of Apeejay School, Saket

Hemanti Mangal, Child Psychologist, and Director of Healing Nest Foundation said that children begin forming self-esteem when they are toddlers. “A positive self-image means that the child knows their limitations but still likes themselves. It gives the child the strength to try new things and face challenges. It builds resilience, persistence, and confidence from a very young age,” Mangal said.

Since children learn from their experiences quickly, we can provide them with instances that promote a healthy self-perception. Parents, teachers, and caregivers need to keep a few tips in mind to build a positive self-image in kids.

Here’s what parents can do

Encourage Individuality: Caregivers can interact with the child by calling their name, sitting with them at eye level, and making eye contact; it helps them feel acknowledged and loved. They can provide the child with reasonable choices in food, clothing, play activities, and other instances. The child can be encouraged to say ‘No’ by accepting their reasonable requests; it gives them a sense of control over their lives.

Foster a Supporting Environment: Caregivers are a safe space for the child. Children will be encouraged to try new things when assured that they have support in case something goes wrong. Children must be given encouragement and support to do new activities. Children can be allotted “special tasks” like cleaning the blackboard or placing the spoons on the table to make them feel important and responsible.

Focus on Effort and Growth: Caregivers must appreciate the child’s effort into a task instead of focusing on the outcomes. When the child tries something new, it helps to give realistic expectations of the task and discourages perfection. For example, when trying skating for the first time, one can say,

It is quite normal to fall plenty of times while skating for the first time. Just make sure you place your hands first when you feel yourself falling. It’ll take time, but within a few weeks, you’ll learn to balance yourself without falling.

Promote Positive Self-talk: Consistent and genuine loving gestures go a long way to creating a positive self-image for the child. Appreciate the child, even for seemingly small tasks like pouring water without dropping. Encourage positive affirmations with praises, songs, or ‘stars’ for good effort. Children learn from observation. So, model a positive self-image by appearing confident and yet accepting mistakes positively.

Engage in Acts of Kindness: Altruistic acts like feeding stray dogs or planting trees give a sense of purpose to the child and build a positive self-image. Encourage helping acts in the daily routine and appreciate their kindness and uniqueness. When in a group, invite children for activities where they tell good qualities about themselves and others.

“Building a positive self-image is a lifelong process that requires patience, genuine love, and consistent effort. Using the above tips, caregivers can work towards building confident children who are persistent and growth-oriented,” Mangal said, who is also an alumna of Apeejay School, Saket. Just remember that each child is unique, and some children may take more time than others to learn something.

“Be patient with them, appreciate their efforts, encourage challenge, and resist comparison with others,” Mangal said in conclusion.

Shalini is an Executive Editor with Apeejay Newsroom. With a PG Diploma in Business Management and Industrial Administration and an MA in Mass Communication, she was a former Associate Editor with News9live. She has worked on varied topics - from news-based to feature articles.