Raising children to love and value themselves is not always easy to do, when many of us are still learning how to love and value ourselves. Though difficult, this struggle is important for our children to witness...... It allows them to understand the process of growth as being as important as the outcome. In sharing our journeys with them, we encourage them to love and value themselves through osmosis.
As our children get older, I see the growing importance of modeling self-love to them. Everything I do that helps me nurture the connection between my own heart/mind/body/soul, helps them do the same. Teaching them to love themselves by modeling it in my own life is laying the groundwork for security in their future, whatever that may look like.
Speak kindly to ourselves
Our children internalize our voices, and the way we speak and interact with them becomes the same dialogue that they speak to themselves later in life. The way we speak to ourselves becomes the way that we speak to our children. This carries on, generation to generation. We have a powerful effect, and a profound opportunity to instill the voice of love in our kids if we can be aware of the way we speak to ourselves.
Experience gratitude and mindfulness
People talk about having gratitude and mindfulness like they are just buttons you can turn on inside yourself that will magically make your life better. The truth is, they take practice like anything else. I like the phrase 'moving towards mindfulness/gratitude' because it suggests that finding these things is really about the process.
Start paying attention to the things that bring you curiosity, happiness and joy. Start with the smallest of things and think about them as they present themselves. The smell of a flower, the way the clouds move, the sound of a song, the flavor of fruit. The joy in these small experiences are the threads of gratitude, and the more you experience them, the more you draw them into your life. Point these things out to your children as you notice them, and help them build that practice in themselves.
Praise effort vs outcome
Children naturally think that adults do everything right, and unlearning this is their right of passage. As grownups, we understand that it is unrealistic to expect perfection the first time around.
Our children need to know that we expect them to try hard and to do their best, but that it doesn't mean that they will get it right the first time. Life doesn't work that way. What happens next is more important. Do they give up, shamed, or do they try again with determination?
We want our kids to have the confidence to get back up and try again, or know when to try something else instead. Nurturing this process of learning means praising their efforts, their ingenuity, and helping them persevere without expecting a perfect outcome. Helping children along this process is a great way to encourage them to value their own genuine efforts.
Listen to our bodies
Learning to value our feelings and emotions is a very important skill to help us build a healthy sense of self worth. Unfortunately In our society, we lack a lot of basic language that would help encourage kids to express their emotions. We aren't generally taught the skills of emotional communication in school, and it can be a hard concept for children to grasp.
Paying attention to where in the body we physically react to emotions helps us understand ourselves better and learn to self-soothe and navigate stormy emotional waters in a healthy way. A tight stomach when feeling stressed, or light-headed when scared, nauseous when sad, hot-cheeked when mad, are all examples of physical reactions to emotions. Talk about these things as they come up for you. Share the feelings in your body with your children to set the example.
When your child seems upset, encourage them to talk about what it feels like to them. In this way, you connect with them and help them build the language and context to understand and value their own feelings.
Trying to solve our children's problems for them isn't helpful. Encouraging them to find creative solutions by listening to them and allowing them to bounce ideas around is allowing them to use their own wisdom and intuition to guide them through conflict. That is helpful.
Use active listening to let them know they have been heard. Repeat back to them what they have said, to make sure you understand each other. '......so what you are saying is....' Use 'I' statements when giving feedback " I feel frustrated when you........' Start getting them primed for effective communicating skills, and show them that what they have to say is important to you.
Let them Play
Please for the love of everything. Lets let our kids play, get dirty, tear apart, rebuild, role-play, sing, direct, and create as much as possible. Lets allow them the space to experience boredom and let it fuel their imaginations.
This is quite possibly the best way to encourage our children to love and value themselves, as their play time is their most formative experimentation with having the power and learning how to use it wisely.
Lets not over-plan their lives so that they have no free time. Lets show them that we support them in persuit of play time whenever we can. Tune in enough so that we have a feel for the sorts of things that inspire them in their play, and encourage more of it. For example, we see they love horses, lets encourage them to learn more about horses in as many ways as they can, and offer them opportunities. Check out library books, invite a friend who has a horse over for Q and A. Encourage their curiosity. Banish them to their rooms for play time, and take a minute for ourselves.
Helping encourage our kids to love themselves is our duty to the world at large, because the effects of self love are reflected outwards exponentially and there are so many places where we desperately need that love to heal wounds and inspire growth and forward thinking as a species.