Healthy Self Concept
What children should know
Children should know they have an important place in society and the world. In Australia, there are laws designed to protect children, and internationally the United Nations has a convention to protect the rights of all children. Children have the right to safety, body privacy and respect and should be protected from all types of abuse whether it be physical, emotional, sexual or neglect. It is okay for people to protect their rights. Children can turn to adults to help them protect their rights because it is an adult’s responsibility to protect the rights of children. Children are vulnerable to abuse because there is a necessary power imbalance between children and adults. Therefore, if an adult abuses this power imbalance, it is never the child’s fault.
Why this is an important part of child sexual abuse prevention
Children develop their self-concept through feedback from the world they are a part of. Their sense of self is connected to how worthwhile, valuable, accepted and connected they feel.
Children who have been sexually abused will commonly think the abuse is somehow their fault and are more likely to have low self-esteem, feel dislocated from friends and family and demonstrate a range of behaviours and attitudes that are a direct result of the abuse and how they have been valued.
Ideas for having conversations on this concept
- Do an internet search on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and discuss this with your child. Explain to your child that the reason national and international laws exist to protect children is because all children are important.
- Talk about the rights that a child has: safety, body privacy and respect
- Discuss the types of abuse: physical, emotional, neglect and sexual. If there are any examples of these highlighted in the news, use them to discuss these issues.
- Talk about why children are not to blame for abuse.
- Talk about who your child can turn to if they feel that their rights are being violated.
- Discuss things that your child is good at and explore all the things that make them unique and special.
- Take notice of the things that are important to your child and create an opportunity to “play” without directing/correcting or criticising.
- Focus on the strengths of your child and articulate these regularly. You could create a strengths tree and include all the qualities you identify in your child.
- Be specific when you praise your child. For example, instead of saying ‘I love the picture you drew’ you could say ‘I loved the way you chose yellow for that house as it really makes the picture stand out’. Say ‘I really liked how you kept on running for the ball even though you were really tired. You must be proud of yourself’, instead of ‘great effort’.
- Any activity where your child can feel connected to you and shows that you are interested in their life will improve their self concept. Board games, painting, walking the dog together, playing soccer or computer games.
- Give your child a role with a responsibility attached to it to support the development of a healthy self-concept. It is helpful when children are given age appropriate jobs to do around the house and can feel that if they weren’t there it would be noticed.