If a picture really is worth more than a thousand words, imagine kids' well-being when they see their own images all around the house. Strategically placed family photos are an effective way to reinforce your child's self-image and self-confidence.
Visual reminders of school events, family trips and everyday activities are proof-positive that a child has a place in life and relationships with others.
"It's important not only to be photographed in ways that indicate caring, nurturing, love and success, but also to see those images and take them in," says David Krauss, co-author with Jerry Fryrear of "Photo Therapy and Mental Health." The Cleveland clinical psychologist, who often uses client photos in therapy, advocates going through family albums with children from time to time to give them a clear vision of growth and change.
Dr. Krauss also finds the idea of a family photo gallery particularly appealing. "What it says to a child is, 'I'm important in this family.' " It also shows a child he or she is meaningfully connected to others in the pictures. Favorite photos in a child's room can enhance the feeling of safety, or offer stimulation. "You want a room to be a safe place where interests, imagination and curiosity come to light," Dr. Krauss says. That means a room with images that not only document past joy, but also showcase what fascinates a child.
In "The Magic of Encouragement" (Morrow, 1990), child psychotherapist Stephanie Marston suggests placing two pictures of a child next to his or her bed. One should show the child happily engaged in an activity, such as riding a bike, playing softball, etc. The other should show family togetherness.
"Why put them next to their beds?" she asks. "Research has shown the 30-minute time period just before bed is when children are more receptive and listen and absorb more than any other time. Put photos of your kids being capable and loved next to their beds," she says, "and these positive images are likely to be the last thing they see before they sleep and the first thing they see when they awaken."
Playing photo identity games with children can begin as early as infancy. If babies see their own image, they get to know themselves. Place their pictures above the changing table, for instance, and amuse them by pointing out their eyes, ears, noses, etc. When they recognize themselves in the picture, it's a joyful moment.