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This one is about: Ten Ways to Enhance Your Child's Self-Image

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by Joanne Green

A person's self image is intimately related to self esteem. How one sees ones self (self image) determines how one feels about who he or she is (self esteem). As parents we want our child to have a healthy sense of self esteem. The best way to ensure that that happens, is to be concerned with his self image.

How do you ensure a healthy self image? Consider yourself, and every other person in your child's life, to be something of a "Hall of Mirrors" You know the place - some mirrors distort the image, some give true representations. Some enhance an image (for instance, some might make a short, heavy person appear tall and thin) and many make the image a comic representation of itself.

Every time your child sees himself through the eyes of someone else, he is looking into that person's mirror, and forming a self image based upon the image he sees. Therefore, if others see a child as "ugly", "stupid", "lazy", or "inferior", sooner or later that is how the child will see himself. If others instead reflect an image of "beautiful", "intelligent", "industrious", or "superior", then that is the way the child will identify himself.

But no two "mirrors" will reflect the same image. Peers may see a child differently than parents; teachers may have a different view than grandparents. The goal is to help your child form an inner mirror - the one by which he will measure all others, allowing him to reject the inaccurate images of himself.

The following are ten ways to enhance your child's self image through your home environment. These steps will help your child see himself as a positive and valuable person.

1. Do not allow your child's craniofacial condition to define him as an individual. My son has a cleft. But he also has bright, sparkling eyes, a winsome personality, an active imagination, and many more attributes. Some parents actually refer to their child as "a cleft". In reality, you have "a child", and your child has a cleft.

2. Love your child unconditionally. Do not allow your child to think that your love is dependent on anything he or she has done or can do. Do not let your child think that love is dependent upon personal beauty. If a child feels that your love is dependent on something, then losing that something can, in your child's mind, make you stop loving him or her.

3. Cultivate a home environment in which each person's worth as an individual is affirmed. Share feelings, experiences, etc. Enjoy life together as a whole family unit.

4. Help children to experience good feelings about themselves. Instead of saying, "I feel so proud of you for that." say, "Do you feel proud of yourself for that?" or "How does that make you feel?"

5. Provide a good example. Children must feel that it is not conceited to feel good about themselves. Let your child know that you, in fact, feel good about who you are. That gives him permission to feel good about who he is.

6. Cultivate friendships with many diverse people. Your child must be given the opportunity to experience the notion that there is not a very narrow focus of what is "acceptable". The people in your child's life should portray the rich diversity that is available to us in this big, wonderful world. In recognizing a wider band of what is "acceptable and positive", your child will be more likely to find himself within that band.

7. Be aware of and tone down your own attitudes based on "looks-ism". Do you often point out people who are "good looking", or who have flawless bodies? Do you make negative comments about persons who are not beautiful? Do you comment on the physical beauty of TV or movie personalities? Every time you do that in your child's presence, you are, in effect, saying to your child, "Physical perfection is all that matters in this world".

8. Always point out positive attributes about others that do not involve the physical. Rather than identifying people by race, hair color, height, weight, etc, try finding some other way to describe a person. Maybe a person can be defined by something he or she has done, or by some personality trait, or by a particular talent.

9. Encourage your child's autonomy. Give your child the freedom to make appropriate decisions, take appropriate risks, and foster a sense of competency. Let your child's own accomplishments give him a sense of worth and personal value.

10. Join a support group. Let your child know that he or she is not the only child in the world who was born with a craniofacial condition, and that others with the same condition are lovable, likable people as well. A support group will also give your child access to kindred spirits with whom he or she may discuss some of the issues that only another who has "been there" can truly understand.

With a good and healthy self image, your child can successfully turn the mirrors around. Then, instead of seeing himself as others see him, your child will look at others and reflect toward them how he sees himself.

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