Insecurities can manifest themselves in your children in any number of ways. He can be less than confident about his abilities, balking at the idea of doing things he once enjoyed. He can be shy in social situations, avoiding family gatherings and becoming an outcast at school. Or he can find himself at a loss for words around certain peers (like a family member or a friend), unable to stand up for himself when caught in confrontations with these "red flag" people. Of course, not all children who experience insecurities are necessarily insecure. The world can be a scary place for kids, and there are literally millions of possible circumstances that can make your child feel insecure. As a parent, it is your job to build security for your child so that he can grow up without the burden of anxiety, worry, fear or other types of insecurities. While you obviously can't protect him from everything, building an emotional foundation for him to stand on is ultimately one of the most important jobs you have. Children can be cagey, though, and not all kids will come out and tell you that they feel insecure or that they're having problems. Younger ones don't have the vocabulary to do so, and older kids may feel pressured to keep things like that to themselves. Communication, however, is always the key. If you feel like insecurities are affecting your child's behavior, emotional state, education or social life, you should approach him. He may not want to talk about it immediately, but this is a crucial step in helping him overcome his problems. Remember, helping your kids work through something (as opposed to doing the work for them) gives them valuable experience in handling problems. These tools will come in handy later in life. Although minor insecurities can be caused by lots of things, there are a few very common roots that many insecure children share. There are also ways, of course, to pull up those roots and get to the source of the issue.
- Create and maintain a secure foundation. One of the main reasons that children become insecure is instability. To develop a healthy personality and a good emotional foundation, kids need a predictable, calm environment. When they are constantly faced with change like frequent moves or constantly changing step-parents, they lose the sense of safety in their lives. It sends an unconscious signal to your child that life is constantly changing, that fate is lurking around every corner waiting to jump out and throw their lives in disarray. Kids facing uncertainty in their lives may become sullen, unaffected by serious situations, angry and resentful. Stability is one of the most important things in their lives, so make sure you do everything to give it to them. Talk with them about the changes that are going on, and assure them that things like divorce and parental arguments are not their fault. Make sure the other aspects of their lives are as stable as possible, as well.
- Deal with any harassment issues, either by bullies or by loved ones. Bullies suffer from their own form of insecurity, and they thrive on transferring that insecurity to other people. Because their own lives aren't stable, they relish in bringing chaos to other people's lives. Having this chaos in your child's life, this element of random anger, degradation and possible violence removes all sense of safety and security. Symptoms that your child is being bullied include loss of personal property, unwillingness to go to school, sullenness, anger, poor performance in class or withdrawal from social settings. Keep the lines of communication open with your child, and encourage him to talk about school. Approach school administrators about any instances of bullying -- most schools have strict anti-bullying policies in place.
- Don't become an overprotective parent. It is natural to want to protect your child from danger, but "molly-coddling" your child can breed fear and insecurity. If you constantly worry about the safety of your child - barring him from any activities that could possibly cause an accident and refusing to let him leave the home for fear of abduction - you instill in him a constant fear that danger lurks behind every shadow. Additionally, constantly hovering over your child and overseeing his every move gives him the impression that he's not good enough to accomplish his own tasks. Don't be an overprotective parent. Remember that children fall for a reason -- to learn how to pick themselves back up.
- Foster in them a healthy self-esteem. What kid doesn't have self-esteem issues? Film and television put rigorous standards on the societal ideal of beauty, and most kids go through a period in their lives when they must reconcile their appearance with those standards. Other kids pressure them, as well, to wear certain types of clothes, to carry certain cell phones and mp3 players, to conform to an arbitrary ideal that they may not be capable of. As a parent, you may feel helpless to do anything about it. The way your child looks is pretty much set in stone, especially considering that giving a child plastic surgery is flirting with hideously immoral. You can do your best to keep them as "in" as possible, however. If your preteen wants a certain type of jeans or particular brand of ball cap, indulge them. Do what you can -- within reasonable financial limits -- to help them fit in. Of course, being a supportive father who doesn't judge or criticize and loves unconditionally will probably help, too. But you're a savvy dad. You already know that.
- Limit their exposure to violence or other traumatic events. Children who are exposed to violence (not TV violence, but real-life, in-the-home violence) will likely have serious insecurity issues. They need stable, nurturing environments to develop healthy personalities; when someone they love is the target of or the instigator of serious acts of violence, it erodes their sense of safety and stability. In later years, their insecurity can manifest itself as outbursts of reactive violence or subjection to violent figures. The only person who can do anything about this is you. Children cannot grow up in violent environments; even a single experience "can rob a child of something unrecoverable; the ability to be a child." If the violent environment is inescapable, you can nurture resiliency in your child's life by providing as much stability as possible. If there has to be something as chaotically unpredictable as violence in his life, make sure everything else is safe, predictable and consistent.