Low self-esteem can cause a bout with depression or worsen existing depression. Parents can help build a positive self-image in their children, which can help protect them from depression and suicidal behaviors. Gay and lesbian youth are two to three times at greater risk for depression and / or suicide than heterosexual youth. It is suggested that approximately 30 percent attempted and / or completed suicides are related to issues of sexual identity.

Building a Positive Self-Image in Children

There are three important steps in helping to build a positive self-image in children and teens:

  • Accepting and affirming them
  • Fostering independence and autonomy
  • Helping them to feel competent

Accepting and Affirming Children and Teens

Children and teens need to feel connected to, loved and accepted by their parents. It is sometimes difficult, though, for parents to communicate love and acceptance when rejecting or correcting a child’s behavior. Affirming a child’s worth during these times will help parents show love and acceptance. Parents can also better connect with their teens by being emotionally and physically present to them.

Being physically present means being available to hug, support and encourage. As is the case with children, teens need hugs and to hear the words, “I love you” from their parents. However, they may be more receptive to these at certain times or in different situations. For instance, they may prefer displays of affection when alone with their parents and not in front of their peer group.

Also, divorce or busy work schedules can interfere with parents “being there” for their children, resulting in teens possibly feeling rejected or abandoned by their parents when they aren’t around during special events and activities.