Building Kids Self Esteem with Family Photography
Healthy self-esteem is important for kids, it helps them feel loved and competent, and helps them to develop into happy, productive people. Kids who know their strengths and weaknesses and feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. Kids with low self-esteem tend to have a hard time finding solutions to problems and struggle with new challenges that they will ultimately face, no matter how mundane the situation may be.
A study done by University of Washington researchers has found that by age 5, children have a sense of self-esteem comparable in strength to that of adults. Because preschoolers have difficulty providing reliable answers to questions about whether they are a good or bad person, previous attempts at researching self-esteem in young children has been difficult. Recently, a new self-esteem task test was created for pre-schoolers call the Preschool Implicit Association Test which can more accurately measure how strongly children feel about themselves.
Using buttons on a computer, they responded to a series of “me” and “not me” flags and to a series of “good” words from a loudspeaker (fun, happy, good, nice) and “bad” words (bad, mad, mean, yucky). Then, to measure self-esteem, the children had to combine the words and press the buttons to indicate whether the “good” words were associated more with the “me” flags or not.
Building self-esteem through family photography
It might not be an obvious source of self-esteem building, but photography can help to develop these positive thoughts and image of oneself, especially in children. As a parent, you are the guiding feature in your child’s growth, both mentally and physically. They are sponges that learn all of their first behaviors, words, thoughts, and beliefs from you. Expressing your family with a portrait helps to explain to your child that they are part of a greater whole and are a valued member of your important group. It helps them to see themselves as an integral part of something that is incredibly important to them: their immediate family. David Krauss, author of Phototherapy in Mental Health, explains:
“I think it is really important to show a family as a family unit. It is so helpful for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit. A photographer’s job is to create and make the image look like a safe holding space for kids where they are safe and protected. Kids get it on a really simple level.”
The times, they are a-changin’
In today’s fast-paced world, with Facebook, Twitter, WiFi, and smartphones, it is easy to get lost. Photos are snapped at an almost unbelievable rate with your iPhone, then sent to all corners of the world for your friends and family to see on social media. Often times, we lose sight of what the actual meaning is behind those images: remembering the memories because time moves fast.
Years ago, people took family photography in order to record their children’s growth and changes as well as share these memories with family that might not be around. There was no Internet, there were no cell phones, there wasn’t e-mail. The only way to show the changes in your family were to get family portraits done professionally and then share them with your loved ones. Today, this is a trivial process thanks to technology. But as with most things that technology improves upon, you tend to lose some of the character and luster.
Cathy Lander-Goldberg, is a licensed clinical social worker and a professional photographer in St. Louis, Mo. She is known for using therapeutic photography in her St. Louis practice. She says:
“Technology has definitely changed our relationship to photographs. Having the family portrait on your phone or facebook page allows for so many more people to see the images, which can be validating for the child. However, I think the immediate sharing makes it less of a priority to get prints made to display and to have as keepsakes in the home and for generations to come.”
Importance of Printed Photographs on Display
Believe it or not, there is a direct advantage to printing full-size images that can be felt, explored and held. Carl Steinberg PhD, a psychologist with over 20 years of clinical experience from Eugene, Oregon, says
“My personal and clinical bias is there is something very powerful in touching your fingers to an actual print,” says Craig Steinberg, a licensed psychologist who works with children ages five through 13 near Eugene, Ore. “Touching the photograph where a face is smiling or the shoulders, it is the same thing as touching a book when you read it. There’s a lot of stimulation of the brain when you have that sensory experience. That is a bit lost in the move to digital. You are touching a keyboard, mouse or a touchscreen but you are not touching the image.”
What can I do to help build self-esteem with family photography?
Make sure that you find a photographer that you and your children are comfortable with. A good photographer knows what they are doing, not only with the photos, but more importantly with the subjects. Often times parents try to coax their children to smile, but unfortunately, this usually causes a distraction from the work at hand. Here at Foschi Photography, we have over 30 years of experience in children’s photography as well as family beach photography, and our motto has always been “leave the smile to us.” A forced, posed smile is obvious… we have been photographing real, happy, emotion-filled smiles for a long time!
You also want a photographer that is helpful: from offering clothing ideas, to helping choose the best photos and touch-up ideas, to framing options, a photographer’s job is more than just taking a few pictures. We make sure to get the client involved in as much of the process as possible. You can help by having your kids pick out their own clothes (perhaps offering them a few acceptable options so that they don’t choose something that doesn’t work!), have them help you look through the proofs and offer their insight into choosing which photos came out the best, to helping to decide (and eventually hang) where on the walls to place the printed portraits.
If you are interested in learning more about the psychology behind building self-esteem with family portraits, visit Glow Imagery’s blog post.