How people might react to your child’s visible difference and how you can model a positive response to your child.
How people view themselves, their value and their worth – known as “self-esteem” – can be influenced by several things. One of these is appearance – and if your child is living with a visible difference or disfigurement, their self-esteem may be affected by their feelings about how they look.
On this page, we look at how to build your child’s self-esteem and confidence.
The information on this page has been written to support you, as the parents and carers of young people with visible differences. We have produced separate advice and guidance for children and young people. You might want to share the guides linked below with your child or you could read them together.
- Appearance and confidence as a young person who looks different.
- Confidence tools for young people who look different.
- Tools to help young people cope with others’ reactions.
People are not born with high or low self-esteem. Self-esteem develops over time and this can fluctuate. Children notice how they and others look and make comparisons, causing them to struggle with feeling good about other aspects of themselves. This can become particularly pronounced during the teenage years, when young people are becoming more aware of their bodies.
If your child has a visible difference or disfigurement, they may see that they are noticeably different to other people their own age, and this can have a bigger impact on their self-esteem.
Today’s society places a big emphasis on “beauty” and physical appearance, with celebrities and others in the media often portraying a conventional idea of what it means to look good. This can affect our body image – the way that we perceive and evaluate our own bodies. For many people, this leads to feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. Changes in appearance, on the other hand, can shake a young person’s sense of identity.
Research tells us that children can feel negative about their bodies from a young age. If your child has a visible difference it can be even more challenging as people with visible difference are under-represented in the media. As a parent it can be very difficult to control what your child sees and as much as you try and promote a healthy body image, it can be difficult.
Comparisons with other people around them and negative feelings about body image can have a big impact on your child’s self-esteem.
In the next section, we look at how to build your child’s self-esteem and confidence.