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PARENTING : WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CHILD SAYS HE HATES HIMSELF.

Byline: Greg Steckler and Gerald Deskin

Sometimes children come home from school or from playing in the neighborhood and say, ``I hate myself.'' Parents need to pay attention to these comments rather than ignore them. They often are a cry for help or reassurance from your child.

Children may be angry or upset with themselves for a variety of reasons. Other children may tease or taunt them because they are in some way different.

The problem may be a physical one, such as, ``You're so fat,'' or the comment may be directed to anything different physically such as a larger nose or feet. Actually, any part of the body may be singled out to be criticized.

The problem may be due to other factors, such as the way one dresses, walks or talks. Children tend to criticize or tease anything that is different about another child. Or a child may be self-critical about something that nobody else notices. The problem may be an imagined one rather than a ``real'' one. However, it probably is very real to your child.

The reason children say they hate themselves is usually to gain parental support and to make sure that their parents will listen to them. Often something is not going well. It is not necessarily some other child's teasing, but that the child's sense of self is disturbed. For example, if a child feels that he or she is not socially accepted by a particular group, that child may withdraw and internalize the imagined feelings of that group. It need not be true, but it is true for for that child at the time.

Children who are depressed may say they hate themselves. Not only do they have trouble relating to other children, but they often imagine slights from other children and adults that are not meant. If you feel unlikable or unlovable, then you might reject any effort from someone being friendly with you, since you feel you are not worth being a friend.

Parents can help by listening to their children. You can show your understanding by accepting that the feelings are intense at this moment and that your child is very upset.

You can hold or hug your child, or otherwise show your affection and acceptance. Saying to your child that he or she is perfect ad has no problem is not helpful. What is helpful is listening to the child and then suggesting possible solutions. Sometimes the child has his or her own solutions, which is why listening is so important.

If the problem is with one child or the school, it may be worthwhile talking to that child's parent and seeing if you can stop the teasing. At school, the teacher may or may not have very important information as to what is going on with your child. Sometimes teachers can observe children's interactions on the playground.

As children develop small groups, which tend to exclude other groups, or as children are not chosen for a game, it is sometimes easy to spot why there is a problem. If not, the teacher still may have some positive recommendations.

If you can't solve the problem, it may be necessary to seek professional help. A child counselor or child psychologist should be able to evaluate your child and quickly give you feedback on the best way to handle the problem.

Suggestions for parents 1. Listen to your child and reassure him if he says he hates himself. 2. If the problem is not resolved fairly soon, consult a professional.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Daily News
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 25, 1998
Words:590
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