Ask an Expert: How Can Parents Help Kids Who Feel Self-Conscious About Their Differences?
Maybe your kid loves band, but it's not considered cool by his peers. Or maybe she's really into science, but none of her friends are.
Here, NYC-based middle school counselor Jennifer Hernandez, the insightful author behind School Counselor Jenna's Blog, weighs in on what a huge difference your support and listening ear makes.
Read her tips below! 💛
Have a question? Submit it to the Malty team at the end of this article—and a fabulous expert will answer it!
Q: This is something that most kids encounter at one point or another.
When should parents start thinking about this issue?
A: Honestly, I don’t think it’s ever too young to start thinking about it. Issues usually start coming up when kids are hitting that 11- to 12-year-old age, but a lot can be done before then. Kids reflect the attitudes they see at home, so it's helpful for parents to model healthy self-esteem and an open mind to new things themselves, and to be supportive of their children's unique interests. Also, the more you’re involved as a parent, the more you can help. You can see a lot just based on the children they hang out with and who they’re spending time with, and if you go to parent-teacher conferences, you can learn more about how they act in class.
Q: If you find out that your child is lying about some aspect of themselves to their peers or other people, what kind of conversation should you have with them?
A: It's best to focus these conversations on support, rather than consequences for their actions. When kids feel like nobody is supportive or maybe their parents don't know their interests and their world all that well, they start to hide themselves even more, which can lead to poor choices. That’s why I try to involve the parent early on in my work, because I see these types of situations all the time. If kids are feeling down or self-conscious about something, I’ll ask, “Would you be OK with me speaking to your mom or dad about this?” If they’re feeling ready, we bring them in for a conversation and talk about how the kid is feeling.
Q: Is there anything else you can do to help kids who are going through this?
A: The best thing we can do is support them. As long as kids have one adult in their life, where they feel like, “I can go to him or her about this when I’m not being supported anywhere else,” you can build a lot from that. Also, we want to help kids understand that everyone is interested in different things, and wants to do different things—and that anyone can make a real impact. When kids feel like they can make a difference by being who they are, that’s also a real confidence booster.