Eye to eye: Teaching children self esteem

Teaching our girls self esteem.

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2014 — Self esteem is a critical element in helping children to avoid becoming victims of human trafficking. Parents and teachers can help build self esteem in children and teenagers, helping them avoid predators who target vulnerable children.

According to Fairfax County police Detective Bill Woolf, convicted human traffickers target potential victims and look specifically for girls who exhibit low self esteem.

Woolf says traffickers will target girls and ask specific questions like, “You know your super beautiful don’t you girl?” Or “Did anyone ever tell you that you could be a model?”

Traffickers also know when a girl looks down at her feet instead of maintaining eye contact they have found the perfect victim, because it is a symptom of low self esteem. Those with lose self esteem are easy to manipulate and control.

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A simple change in body language can make a huge difference. Maintaining eye contact will show the trafficker that the individual is not a victim and is confident. A strong response will throw them off guard and likely make them lose interest.

Teaching young at risk populations that it is ok to say no is also important to help them fight potentially damaging situations. Teens who have been taught to be polite and never question authority are sadly at risk for becoming victims. While teachers and parents teach young people to always listen and be polite they must also stress that it’s important to first listen to that inner voice or conscience  inside that says something’s is wrong.

What exactly is self esteem anyway? Self-esteem is all about how much we feel valued, loved, and thought of by others — how much we value, love, and accept ourselves. Children and teens with healthy self-esteem are able to feel good about themselves, appreciate their own worth, and take pride in their abilities, skills, and accomplishments.

Children and teens with low self-esteem may feel as if no one will like them or accept them or that they can’t do well in anything. These children will look for love and acceptance wherever they can find it often in the wrong places.

Human beings all experience problems with self-esteem at some point in their lives, especially during the confusing teenage years. The good news is that, because everyone’s self-image changes over time, self-esteem is not fixed forever.

Praising children for a job well done is always great, but don’t overdo it. In fact, by over-praising kids, we are doing more harm than good.  We are lowering the bar and if we keep telling our children they are already doing a fantastic job, were saying they no longer need to push themselves.  But confidence comes from doing, from trying and failing and trying again. Letting them learn by taking age appropriate risks is a way for them to grow healthy self esteem.

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When children do fail make sure they know they are loved unconditionally and help them to set age appropriate goals, encourage them to help around the house and to pursue their own interests. Sports are always good for learning team work, working together and learning how to win and lose gracefully.

In today’s hectic world, spending quality time with your children and helping them be the best they can be and feel loved is more important than ever.

Children who are looking for love and acceptance will find it wherever they can. Love, acceptance, family, discipline, self worth for completing tasks (no matter what the tasks are) are all things a normal child looks for and needs. If the parents and family are not providing these, then there are predators and traffickers who will. When a child victim of human trafficking is rescued, unless the trafficker bond is broken through established protocols, the child will seek to return to the trafficker. The child does not think the trafficker is evil, they feel they are running back to the only person who understands and accepts them.

Building self esteem in the children in our lives should start early and continue throughout childhood. Building esteem in teenagers at a time when they are facing body changes peer pressure and more requires different mindset. A conflict may seem small to us, but to a teenager, it could be a major problem in their lives.  By supporting your child through the good and the bad you will be laying a strong foundation for open communication when bigger challenges come around.  When things are going well, remind your teenager that you are always there to listen and help in any way that you can.  Knowing they have a parent who loves and accepts them can help build their self-esteem over time.

Ask the children and teens in your life the questions below.

Which of these would you try as a way to build your self-esteem?

Think of something I’d like to accomplish and make a plan for doing it
Reduce self-critical thoughts
Let go of the need to always be perfect in all I do
Remind myself that mistakes are always learning opportunities, not failures
Put effort into doing and being the best I can be

All of these are great ways for helping to build self esteem and confidence.
Taking the time in our busy lives to make sure the children in our lives are the very best they can be is so important.

Make sure it is a priority in your own life today.

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Barbara Amaya broke her silence to share her own story of surviving adversity, trauma and abuse to bring her message of hope and awareness to others. Amaya is a sought after expert speaker and has shared her story in various media, venues and universities like: NPR, Fox, Channel 4, More magazine, Animal New York, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, George Mason University, Sheperd University, New Jersey Attorney General's Office and more. Barbara is a featured speaker on the Frederick Douglass Family website on the advisory board of ArtWorks for Freedom and Free to Flourish, a member of several survivor groups including the NSN and a member of the D.C. Dept of Justice Task Force and the Virginia Task Force. Barbara works with SeraphimGLOBAL a Virginia non profit as a technical adviser. Amaya's memoir with publisher Animal Media, will launch 2014, she has written a graphic novel called The Destiny of Zoe Carpenter up at Amazon, Barnes & Noble online. Find updates about about her books and her work in the anti-trafficking community at her website www.barbaraamaya.com follow her on twitter barbaraamaya4 and on facebook, LinkedIn and google + and Pinterest.