Teaching Your Child About Self-Love
Maybe you grew up drawing comics, with a constant barrage of adults complimenting your impressive artistic abilities, and thus you learned to love that about yourself. Maybe you were a gymnast as a child and every medal you won subconsciously told you that you were worthy of being someone who is praised for their hard work and dedication. Or, maybe you weren’t particularly good at any one skill or sport growing up, but you had a family that loved you and friends who chose to be around you.
While it is wonderful and an absolute blessing to have people around us who show us love for our talents, or for just being ourselves, how do we really learn to show ourselves, love? What if we still don’t really know what it means to have self-love and to put it into action? There is no class in school that taught you how to love yourself, and there isn’t one today that will teach your child about self-love. But you, as a parent, can change that. You can understand the importance of having self-love, what it looks like and how to put it into action, and teach your child a life-altering skill that will carry them for the rest of their life.
Why is Self-Love Important?
Self-love can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different types of people across the globe. It could mean journaling any negative thoughts you have in the morning so that you don’t take them with you into your already stressful job on Wall Street. It could be in the form of taking a relaxing bubble bath after putting four kids down to sleep for the night after a long day as a multi-tasking mom. And for your child, it could be in the form of a self-portrait art project in which they are instructed to write self-affirming adjectives in the margins.
Though self-love can look different from one individual to the next, and from life stage to life stage, the very core of what it is and our motivations to practice self-love seems to remain the same. The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation of America defines it as such:
“Self-love means accepting yourself as you are in this very moment for everything that you are. It means accepting your emotions for what they are and putting your physical, emotional, and mental well-being first.”
When you accept yourself for who you are, the opinions of others, as well as the pressure to conform to society’s expectations of who you should be, are unable to shake your sense of self. When you wholly accept yourself as you are, you have a rock-solid foundation to move through life with the peace of mind that you are in control of your own thoughts, feelings, and actions. It is safe to say that most parents would want their kids to be able to live this way, and that is why teaching them what self-love is, and how to put it into action, is so important!
What Does Self-Love Look Like?
Self-love can largely be shown through practicing physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Once you identify how to do all of these things for yourself, it will be easier to teach your child how to show themselves love as well! Just remember, self-love is not meant to be a chore. It is meant to be a fun journey that you embark on with your best friend— yourself!
Emotionally, self-love can be practiced by working through your problems (instead of running from them), only making room for healthy relationships, setting healthy boundaries for yourself, and taking time to show yourself that you are one of your top priorities.
You can think of emotional well-being as taking the time to carefully clear away the cobwebs that have built up in your heart and mind. Are there problems you have been avoiding that have led to anxieties or concerns that affect your daily life? Are there childhood traumas you have yet to deal with, or is there something about yourself that you want to confront and improve upon? Perhaps journaling is enough to help you sort through these problems and the subsequent emotions they arouse whenever you think of them. Or maybe you have been avoiding them because they are too big of a burden to confront on your own, and seeking a therapist’s help would be a massive step in improving your life. Working through these issues that are built up inside of you is not only showing yourself an immense amount of love, but you will likely also feel liberated and empowered for having done so! You can encourage your child to do the same whenever they are confronted with an issue that they would rather play hide-and-seek with, rather than working it out on the spot.
Other ways to show yourself, love, through tuning up your emotional well-being may be through only allowing for healthy relationships in your life, and learning to set clear boundaries. Do you have friendships that only center around gossiping about others on the phone for hours? Do you have friends you only see in social settings that encourage you to drink heavily? Likewise, does your child have friends that seem to bring out the worst behavior in them, a friend that always gets them in trouble, or that says hurtful things to them? It is easy to forget in daily life that you are in control of the company you keep; friends are not people that just happen to you, but rather people you choose to spend your time with. If someone is not positively serving you and your emotional well-being, one of the best things you can do to show yourself, love, is to set boundaries around who you choose to spend your valuable time with! If those around you truly value you, they will respect the boundaries you set for yourself, and in turn, you will have more respect for yourself.
Mentally, self-love can be seen in the form of practicing good morals, paying attention to the way you think about yourself, and being mindful. It is easier to love ourselves when we truly believe that we are good human beings. By practicing (and teaching our children) sound morals, we are communicating that we are respectable and worthy human beings to not only those around us but to ourselves. Having the courage to stand up for ourselves and others, the perseverance to accomplish tough goals in our careers, setting aside judgment when someone trusts you enough to confide in you, and telling the truth even when it is difficult, are all examples of practicing good morals even when it is the harder thing to do. You can teach your child that although we should always love ourselves, it is much easier for us to love ourselves in reality when we know we tried our hardest or did the right thing.
Paying attention to the way you think and talk about yourself, and being mindful, are two significant ways that we mentally show ourselves love every day. According to a study done by the National Science Foundation, the average person has up to 60,000 thoughts per day, with 80 percent of them being negative! Imagine how different your life would be if you even incrementally believed in yourself more. Being mindful of this can help positively alter your life, recognizing that the negative things you are thinking about yourself are simply thoughts, and not based on reality at all. We aren’t special in this negative self-talk, so it is likely your child could think this way too, without intervention. You can help break the cycle by teaching them outright that whenever they have a negative thought about themselves, they can stop to take a moment and replace it with a positive one!
Self-love can also be practiced physically in the way you treat your body, how you allow others to treat you, and by following a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Take a moment to consider how you treat your own body. Do you listen to your body’s needs and get enough sleep, drink enough water, carry out a skincare routine every night, get regular doctor’s check-ups, or take it easy on the caffeine when you don’t really need it? When you take care of your body, especially by following a healthy diet and exercise regularly, you communicate to yourself that you are worthy of that time and effort to show yourself love and respect. This can carry over into how others treat you; if you show the world that you respect yourself, the world will show you respect, too. You teach others how to treat you in the way you take care of your body, speak to others, and speak about yourself. Just like when you taught your child how to brush their teeth or wash their hands, you can teach your child the “why” behind the importance of taking excellent care of themselves, too!
Self-Love Practice for Your Child
Now that you can clearly identify what self-love is, why it is important, and how you show it to yourself every day, you are ready to change the course of your child’s life! What a reason to celebrate! Remember, self-love is meant to be fun, in easy, small steps that you can implement into your daily routine for the rest of your life. Here are some ideas of activities that will allow your child to learn about, and practice, self-love:
- Create a Self-Esteem File: Have your child decorate a file folder and collect all of the teacher’s notes, positive feedback, art projects or papers they are proud of, or letters from their friends that make them feel good about themselves!
- Encourage a Self-Reflection Journal and help them create a schedule to journal in it daily.
- Cooking and discussing nutritious meals: Let your child cook with you, but teach them the benefits of all the deliciously nutritious foods they will be putting in their body. This will help them to be aware that food is not only yummy, but it can act as medicine for our bodies! You can name each item that you cook with and research their amazing health benefits together.
- Write self-affirming statements on sticky notes together and post them around the house.
- Take turns saying negative things about yourselves: This activity is not as glum as it seems! Since 95% of our thoughts are repetitive, we often tell ourselves the same negative things we think about ourselves day in and day out. Saying some of these thoughts out loud can help us to see how silly they are, and that there is no truth to them. For example, if your child says, “I am the worst soccer player on my team,” you might help them see that it is false by saying, “I acknowledge that you feel that way. In my opinion, it is simply not true! You were awarded ‘Most Improved Player’ last season, and you have been practicing all summer! Your coach even said that you have improved so much already in the past two games! Give yourself time to let all of your hard work pay off.” You can then swap roles by saying something negative you think about yourself, and let your child practice articulating why it is simply just a thought.
- Take a kids’ yoga class and teach them mantras to say daily.
- Create a Self-Love Video:
Record your child saying things that they love about themselves. This can be a one-time thing, a year-long project to see how much they have grown, or you could even get family and friends involved by recording them saying things they love about your child. Whenever your child is having a rough day or their self-esteem has dipped low, they can watch this video and remember all of the things they, and others, love about them.