Start them young and wait for their self-esteem and confidence to flourish
Parents almost always teach their children to be nice. They encourage them to say please and thank you, to share their toys, and to be a good friend.
But self-esteem is often overlooked, and in my role as a child therapist, I have heard many children express their aversion to themselves, talking about themselves in a negative way.
That said, all of the kids I’ve met who aren’t kind to themselves state that they would never treat a friend that way – instead, they would encourage and support them, which of course is. what they have to do for themselves.
So how do we encourage our kids to show each other the same kindness that they would show their BFFs? Here are five simple, yet powerful methods:
1. Teach them to think about their bodies.
Bombed by images of “perfect bodies” on social media, it’s no wonder kids can feel a lot of pressure and self-doubt about whether they are up to the job.
Encourage your child to think about what their body can do, rather than just what they look like. Being able to see, hear, walk, run, hug, kiss, sing – these are all huge privileges that not everyone has.
Help them see that their body deserves their kindness, attention, appreciation and care, by mimicking the positive ways you care for and appreciate your own body.
For older children, it is important to make sure they are media savvy and understand Photoshop, as well as the practice of taking 1,000 photos until they are happy. Encourage them to follow a wide range of accounts showing people of all shapes and sizes.
2. Teach them how to thrive
Children love taking care of pets and growing things in the garden, and through these activities, they learn the importance of providing what other living things need to thrive.
Help them see that they also need to be fed to be their best. Discuss what it looks like and include fresh air, rest, relaxation, healthy eating, and exercise.
Encourage your child to plant seeds and whenever he takes care of them, do something beautiful for himself as well. They will soon see the value of self-care and how it helps them (and their seeds) to bloom.
“Help them see that their bodies deserve their kindness, attention, appreciation and care”
3. Encourage them to talk to each other nicely.
Brené Brown says, “Talk to yourself the way you would someone you love.” It is a wonderful thing to teach a child.
Children know that words are powerful, that if they say something mean to someone it hurts them, and if they say something encouraging it can do someone good. They need to see how this also applies to themselves.
Psychologists at the University of Michigan conducted a series of experiments to see how self-talk affects behavior and found that if we use our name when talking to each other instead of “I”, we tend to talk to each other. more nicely.
So ask your child to say, “Come on Katie, you can do this! Rather than saying “I can’t do this, it’s too hard.”
4. Show them how to feel good about themselves
Positive affirmations have been proven to work – reducing both stress and worry, and reshaping our minds to be more positive.
Encourage your child to try these out by looking at himself in the mirror every day to build his confidence:
- I feel full of energy and my body is strong
- i am nice and a good friend
- I am loved
5. Guide them in developing habits of caring.
Children (just like adults) need to take care of themselves first, because being full of self-love makes it easier to deal with life’s challenges.
Show them how, modeling self-care in action – take a long bath to relax, discuss your worries, and watch a fun movie if you need to unwind. Be open about these caring activities and your child will soon see that meeting their own needs is not selfish, but essential.
Ask them to make a list of all the ways they could be kind to themselves – the younger ones may want to make a collage of ideas. Encourage them to pick something from their list whenever they need a pick-me-up, and let acts of kindness become their default reaction in times of trouble.
Becky Goddard-Hill is a child therapist and author of ‘Create Your Own Kindness: Activities to Encourage Children to Be Caring and Kind’ (Collins Kids, £ 9.99)
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