Creative Child

I Like You, Not Just Your Squares

Helping Kids Find Meaningful Connection in the Social Media Era
by Rebecca Eanes


World-renowned researcher and author Brene Brown said, “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” How many adolescents are showing up as their authentic, imperfect selves? With the filtered, photoshopped, and edited representations, aren’t they still missing out on true belonging? Therefore, it’s crucial that we help our children develop two things: self-acceptance and true connections.

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The goal is for our children to not have to rely on peers to build their sense of self-worth. We can help them to grow their confidence in several ways so that they aren’t reliant upon social media clicks to feel good about themselves. We used to believe that the way to build a child’s confidence and self-acceptance was through lavish praise, but research has shown that loads of praise can backfire, leaving a child with lower self-esteem. Instead, here are three things you can do to help your child cultivate self-acceptance.

  1. Help them connect with something bigger than themselves. In her book, Kid Confidence, author Eileen Kennedy-Moor suggests that the key to confidence is to reduce self-focus and quiet the ego. She says this can be accomplished through mindfulness, flow (getting lost in something you enjoy), compassion (good deeds, helping others), and elevation (an emotion we feel when we observe the goodness in others).
  2. Give them responsibilities. One of the core components of self-esteem is competence. When kids feel like they are able to accomplish what they set their minds to, and when they feel they are making a positive contribution, their confidence grows. Give them opportunities to try new things and to master skills.
  3. Show unconditional positive regard. Humanist psychologist Carl Rogers believed that providing unconditional positive regard (accepting and loving someone no matter what) helps people become congruent (their self-image is a lot like their ideal self, or self-actualization).

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Face-to-face and heart-to-heart interactions are still the best way to fulfill the need for belonging. Hopefully we will see the other side of this pandemic soon, and face-to-face socializing will become easier, but we can accomplish this at home by family dinners at the table, game and movie nights, active listening, undivided attention, and deep conversations with our kids. We can help them connect with friends by offering to host sleepovers and parties, and we can encourage and support them in their sports and activities. We can limit screen time and increase our quality time, and most importantly, we can create a safe environment where they can show up as their true, authentic selves without fear or shame or worry.

You are home, so take your mask off (both literally and figuratively) and rest, because here you are loved and accepted always. I like you, not just your squares.


Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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