Help children with positive self-image and identity

It can be difficult for children to authentically express themselves online, especially if they worry how they might be perceived. Online safety expert, Lauren Seager-Smith from Kidscape, explores what parents can do to help children love and embrace themselves for a positive self-image.

Help children express themselves authentically

What can parents do to help encourage children and young people’s positive self-image, especially if they identify as LGBTQ+?

Last year, Kidscape worked with young people to explore what confidence meant to them. They were clear that loving yourself is the key to self-confidence and positive self-image. ‘Being yourself’ opens the door to contentment and happiness and draws the right people to you. They were open about their struggles — of the difficulty of feeling different or under pressure from others.

They said family and friends had the most positive influence on confidence. As parents and carers, we have a vital role in supporting our children to embrace and love themselves. For many children, this will be a gradual process of discovery where they will try out different identities, looks, trends and activities. Others may be surer of themselves from a younger age. The challenge we face is not to project our own hopes and expectations on our children, but to support their journey of self-discovery.

This journey will be in the ‘real world’ – in school and in the community — but will also be an online journey as they start to explore who they are through social media and relationships with others online. The online world has transformed opportunities to explore identities, to learn from others and to share who we are with the world. For some people, this can be a wonderful opportunity for discovery and self-expression. But for others, it can lead to increasing levels of self-doubt and insecurity. The young people said that social media had the most negative influence on confidence. As parents and carers, we can support our children to find their ‘tribe’ on and offline. To find people and content that helps them feel good about themselves and helps them to understand who they are and what they’re going through. This is critical for young people who may be exploring their gender identity – particularly if they feel ‘different’, lonely or isolated within their school peer group.

How can parents and carers encourage young people to support others with different gender identities online?

Children and young people can find anything online and as parents, we need to keep a watchful eye on what they are viewing and listening to. It’s important we listen out for negative attitudes towards others and that we encourage them to celebrate and respect differences in all its many forms. If they can learn to embrace difference and self-expression in others, they are much more likely to have a positive self-image of themselves and find joy in exploring who they are, what they love and who they want to be.