By Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW

The other day I posted an adorable video of a young girl singing with her dad and an absolutely amazing video of a teenage girl and her dad beatboxing like nothing we’ve ever seen before.  Besides these videos being incredible, awesome, and cute, they are important and relevant for another reason all together.  I’ll tell you why.

One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy.  There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity.  It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them!  There is nothing more validating to a child to see their parent enjoying themselves while spending time with them.  It sets a strong foundation for great self-esteem and confidence that their presence and company is not only appreciated but enjoyed and that they are worthy of other people’s attention, affection, and time.  All good things!

Not only does a shared interest benefit a child’s self-esteem, it is also an incredible bonding opportunity.  Kids learn, communicate and feel comfortable through play.  Though both of the activities featured in the videos are musical, we’ll still consider it play because for kids, it serves the same purpose.  Playing with your child establishes trust and a promise (if you will) that you can communicate and understand them on their level which may make them more inclined to share things with you through play or even outside of play, knowing that you are “with them”.  If they can trust that you have their back in an imaginary pirate ship attack, they will trust that you can help them with a problem they are having with a mean pirate at school.

Sharing an interest and playing with your child also sets such an important example of teaching your child that it’s ok to learn something new (and not be a pro from the start).  For example, maybe you’re trying out a new song or learning a new chord, chances are you won’t get it right on the first try and this is such a good way to show kids that it’s ok and it’s normal and it’s an important part of learning and life.  Maybe you learned a new song and you’ve played it a bunch but you still mess up one chord half way through and hey, what another good message, mistakes happen, we’re human, and we say “oops” and try again.  Again, kids learn through play and modeling, and the examples are parents set.  What better way than to do something fun with your kid that you will both enjoy.  Win win.

What hobbies do you enjoy with your kids?  What new activities are you going to try??


Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW is a child and adolescent therapists and owner of Child Therapy Boston, a counseling and social skills practice for children and teens in the Greater Boston area.