I have a shelf full of framed family photos at my home. My youngest granddaughter Lennox is about to turn two, and recently she has become interested in the photos – she wants to be held up to see them, and enjoys pointing at each one. 

As I held her and described all the family members as she pointed at them, I realized to my dismay that I didn’t have a single photo of her on the shelf! I’m a Houston newborn photographer, and Houston baby photographer, so while I’ve of course taken many photos of her since she was born, I just hadn’t gotten around to printing and framing any of them for myself. 

To make matters worse, there were several photos of her older brother. While she didn’t ask, I thought she must be wondering why there were photos of him, but no photos of her. Thank goodness, I was able to walk across the room with her and point her out in our big extended family photo on the wall. I did tell her I’d be putting up some photos of her soon, but being under two, I wasn’t sure she really got it.

Building Security & Self-Worth

When it comes to family photos, studies now show that displaying photos of our children throughout the home increases their confidence, self-worth; providing a sense of comfort and reassurance that they ‘belong.’ “[It] sends the message that our family and those in it are important to one another, and we honor the memories we have experienced,“ says Cathy Lander-Goldberg, a licensed clinical social worker and a professional photographer out of St. Louis, Missouri. 

Furthermore, a 1975 study of fourth graders, by Tulane University, found that children who saw and handled photographs of themselves demonstrated a 37% increase in behavior correlated with self-esteem.

Format & Display Matter.

It turns out that how and where photos are displayed makes an impact as well. It should come as no surprise that printed photos, which can be touched and held, have a greater impact on a child’s confidence, than ones that are stored digitally.

What’s more, having them prominently displayed in areas of the home that feel important and are highly visible—like the entryway, above a fireplace mantle, or in the parent’s bedroom—carry more weight. “[Prominently displayed physical photographs] have a certainty about them and a protecting quality that nurtures a child. It lets them know where they are in the pecking order and that they are loved and cared for,” says David Krauss, a licensed psychologist from Cleveland, Ohio.

Lander-Goldberg agrees, stating, “…it sends the message that our family and those in it are important to one another, and we honor the memories we have experienced.”  

Before Lennox’s next visit, I quickly printed some photos of her and slipped them into frames. The huge smile on her face when she saw herself represented on my photo shelf told me everything I needed to know. Of course she knew already that we love her to pieces, but I could see on her face that there was something about having a place on the shelf that cemented in her mind that she has a place in this family.