From birth, children need experiences and relationships that show them they’re valued, capable human beings who bring pleasure to others. Positive attention, reactions and responses from key grown-ups help children build a picture of how valued they are.
Your child’s self-image builds up over time with positive, loving messages from you and other important people in your child’s life. A healthy self-image is very important, not only for your child’s relationship with others, but also for your child’s confidence as they learn about the world.
Your child’s feelings of security and safety come from responsive interactions with you and other carers. If you smile at your child when they look towards you, or reassure your child when they’re frightened or uncertain, your child will feel safe and secure. This gives your child confidence as they explore their world.
There are many ways to give your child positive attention. Daily activities like changing a nappy, supervising a bath or walking to school let you connect with your child in meaningful ways. For example, you can give positive attention by cuddling and tickling your toddler while you’re drying them after a bath. Or you can sit with your arm around your child while you watch television together.
No matter what your child’s age, there are simple things you can do every day to send the message that your child is special and important. For example:
- Look at your child and smile.
- Show interest in what your child is doing – ask your child to tell you about it if they can.
- Pay attention and listen closely when your child talks to you.
- Create some special family rituals you can share together.
- Make time to be with your child, doing things you enjoy together.
- Praise your child when they try out a new skill or make an effort with something – for example, ‘That’s a really beautiful drawing! Where did you learn to use shading like that?’