The truth is that depression does not affect only adults, but children and adolescents, too. Depression is a disease as are diabetes, or high blood pressure. It is believed to be the disease of the future. World Health Organisation estimates that it will soon become the second public health issue in the world.
A child who has a positive self-image and trusts herself/himself is self-confident. The chances to become such a child depend largely on parents and attachments created from birth.
Being a parent is not easy, there is no recipe for that. Providing warmth and love, safety and support is important, but some parents overdo this they protect their child, want to do everything for the child who then lacks self-confidence. Surely, many parents will say that whatever they are doing is done for their children, they care about them, provide everything they did not have, help them and love them. However, by doing everything instead of the child, parents send the message that the child is not capable of doing things himself/herself. What is needed is a good balance.
Providing warmth and love, safety and support is important, but some parents overdo this they protect their child, want to do everything for the child who then lacks self-confidence.
On one hand, children should be encouraged and given freedom, taught how to be independent and responsible, allowed to do things themselves and make their own age appropriate mistakes. Only when they do things by themselves, they will feel worthy and successful. Parents’ trust that the child can do things independently will make the child feel loved and accepted, regardles of the success achieved. This is why it is important to allow a very young child to make decisions. Let the child choose the fruit to eat or the colour of the tights to wear. However, before doing that, you have to be prepared to respect your child’s decision, since you have offered him/her a choice.
On the other hand, it is important to protect your child and set clear boundaries which have to be respected consistently. It is especially important in early years of life. After that, in the kindergarten and later at school, peers and, later, teachers will be getting more importance. They will surely still need parental love and support. But the attachment between parents and their child and the groundwork for their child’s self-image and relations with other people are being developed in these early years. Be there for your child so s/he can talk with you about her/his worries and feelings, respect his/her feelings and thoughts, but give him/her clear guidance. Praise your child, show love, support, respect – it helps.
Developing positive self-image
Parents are often trying to be perfect, they even behave as if they are, criticizing their children at the same time. When their child does something good, it is taken for granted, often unnoticed. However, when the child does something inappropriate, they readily reproach, shout, punish. When the child is very young, punishment does not make sense because the child does not even understand what it means. This is the reason why it is recommendable to ignore bad behaviour of very young children. When the child can understand, it is necessary to explain why some behaviour is bad and offer alternatives. It is always good to explain why something is good, or that something else is not good and to mention the consequences of certain behaviours.
In order that the child develops a positive self-image and becomes self-confident, s/he has to be praised for small things, said that s/he has the right to make mistakes (we all do) and taught how to deal with them and how to make things right. Teach your child how to cope with failure. Nobody can do everything good all the time. Children have to learn that failures are challenges to achieve the best they can. It is also important to make them understand that they can rely on you.
Since attention is a strong motivator, behaviours which are corroborated with your attention will become more frequent consequently, more shouting due to bad behaviour, more stress about it, the more bad behaviour will ensue, and the vicious circle will be established. We recommend that you do just the opposite bad behavious should remain unnoticed, while good behaviour should always be noted, even small tiny thing, like saying hello nicely or doing something you asked for. The reward will be parents’ attention and feeling good because of the praise.
No matter what a hurry parents live in, the biggest prize they can give the child is their own time. Whatever walk of life people are, everybody can allocate at least a quarter of an hour a day to his/her child with the mobile off, coffee with friends cancelled, TV turned off, cooking, ironing or vacuum cleaning postponed, saying ‘This is my time for you.’ That way the child will understand that s/he is accepted and loved, having a person who is always there for her/him. When there are more children in the family, time should be organised so that both parents can spend individually with each child at least ten minutes. The child must know that s/he has the right to both parents. Even if you work the whole day while your children are in the kindergarten or with their grandparents, your time together may be when you are putting them to bed or when they sneak in your bed in the morning. One weekend day should be proclaimed a family day, for picnics, cinema, theatre or some other family activities.
The most you can give your children is enjoying their company. It is the key to children’s self-confidence. Children feel appreciated when they know that their parents want to spend some time together because of them.