One of the hidden but powerful aspects of family photography that moms and most photographers rarely consider is how it can help us raise children with stronger confidence in their own worth and abilities. Psychologists and experts have done some work in recent decades exploring the link.
A revealing study was conducted in 1975 with a group of fourth graders at a Tennessee school by Tulane University. During a five week period, the children took Polaroid instant photos of themselves with provided cameras in a variety of assigned poses, compositions and expressing various emotions. The children worked with the printed images of themselves and created scrapbooks once a week over those five weeks. Testing of the students and teachers at the conclusion of study revealed a significant increase of 37 percent in the students’ average self-esteem behaviors. This Murfreesboro Study shows some evidence personal photography of children seen and enjoyed in a specific way can help boost a child’s self-esteem.
But how can family photography, specifically family portraits, help boost a child’s self-esteem?
David Krauss, a licensed psychologist from Cleveland, Ohio says, “I think it is really important to show a family as a family unit. It is so helpful for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit. A photographer’s job is to create and make the image look like a safe holding space for kids where they are safe and protected. Kids get it on a really simple level.”
Krauss is one of the earliest pioneers in using people’s personal photography and family albums to assist in mental health counseling and therapy. He co-authored “Photo Therapy and Mental Health” in 1983 that is considered a founding text for the use of photography in therapy.
“It lets children learn who they are and where they fit,” says Judy Weiser. a psychologist, art therapist and author based in Vancouver. “They learn their genealogy and the the uniqueness of their own family and its story. When a child sees a family portrait with them included in the photograph they say to themselves: ‘These people have me as part of what they are, that’s why I belong here. This is where I come from.'”
Weiser has spent more than 20 years using all manner of personal photography to assist in the treatment process of her clients. She is considered by many to be the foremost authority on these treatment techniques, called PhotoTherapy.
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Added to that, if you have a pet, photography with children and pets are a great way to connect in the family. Having fun doing family photos with dogs and cats are a good way of teaching kids to value and treasure animals. Same goes with taking photos of older children with their newborn brothers or sisters. It will do well for parents to take their children to a studio or location for professional photography. The result is there to be appreciated. If the shoot is enjoyable without stress, then the end result will be treasured even more. In years to come, children who have the opportunity to experience professional photography of the family and pet will learn that fond memories using photos can be a powerful means of helping their self esteem.