Your daughter refuses to leave the house unless her bangs are curled. Your son spends all his birthday money on one pair of sneakers. As a parent, it's discouraging to watch a child place so much emphasis on what he looks like. And even though we were once this age, we still forget how connected physical appearance is to self-esteem. We start to wonder if all that time in front of the mirror can possibly be normal.
Psychologist Dr. Les Parrott, author of Helping Your Struggling Teenager (Zondervan), says that it's healthy for pre-adolescents to be concerned about their appearance?it's part of their physical and emotional development. Parrott explains that most pre-adolescents make it their full-time job to carve out a sense of identity, and at their developmental stage, physical appearance is one defining mark.
When it comes to appearance issues, we need to help our kids maintain a healthy attitude about what they look like and how their appearance relates to their other character qualities. Find opportunities to commend your child on his relational abilities such as honesty, integrity, compassion, kindness, and joy. Tell your child how much you admire his relationship with his friends and the way he treats them. Or tell your child that you respect her ability to tell the truth, even when it's hard. Remember, a child's self-image can be closely identified with your image of her, so be sure to focus in on the good stuff and affirm who your child is, not what she looks like. Whatever you point out, be sincere and specific in your praise.