Ask the Expert: Dressing Up Childrens’ Esteem


Question: How can I get my kids to care more about how they look at holiday family gatherings?

Answer: There’s so much pressure to look good over the holidays! Especially if seeing extended family and friends only once a year, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of trying to look perfect in the eyes of others.

This is never more true than for parents who want visiting Aunt Martha and Uncle Harry to see their kids in the best possible light, namely, in clean matching clothes and an attitude that conveys, “I’m a successful, confident, got-my-act-together kid.”

When a child’s idea of a relaxing holiday clashes with a parent’s need for their teenager to make a good impression, the result can be unintended negative messages that wound self-esteem.

As a parent, if you assert, “You’re not wearing that outfit to Thanksgiving dinner, are you?” your child hears, “I look ridiculous.” When you remind them, “Look up when you talk” or, “Please eat like a civilized person,” kids feel, “I’m an embarrassment.”

As parents, we have the privileged power to influence how our kids feel about themselves. Used correctly, we can help develop self-confidence and feelings of worth in our children. Used incorrectly, we have the power to damage self-esteem, albeit unintentionally.

Ask yourself, would I rather make sure my child wears the perfect holiday outfit, or that my child feels wonderfully perfect in whatever outfit they choose to wear?

Instead of focusing on the negative, compliment your child on a unique trait that they are proud of. “I love how you always put such cool clothes together, you are so creative!” or “You have such amazing hair.”

Focusing on non-appearance qualities also helps kids feel good about themselves. “You’re such a good writer!” or “I love your sense of humor.” helps kids develop positive self-identity around internal, as opposed to external, traits.

Lastly, before gathering around the Thanksgiving table, ask your child’s permission to brag about them a bit. Publicly sharing accomplishments or deeds that your child is proud of, will increase self-confidence and esteem. And perhaps, just maybe, cause them to sit a bit taller as they ask, “Please pass the gravy.”

Dr. Julie’s personal style of positive parenting advice was featured in “Ask the Expert” as seen in The Arizona Republic and AZCentral





If you like this, then please share!

Julie T. Anné Zeig, Ph.D.

Dr Julie T. Anné Zeig is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Eating Disorder Specialist, Founder and Clinical Director of A New Beginning and Co-Founder and Clinical Director of TheHealthyWeighOut, both specialty eating disorder treatment facilities located in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Read More