How to help our kids to love and accept themselves (part 1)

This post is part of the ongoing series “how to love and accept yourself as you are” – you can find all the posts here and catch up any time.

So many of us adults struggle with self acceptance and self love. I have always felt it was critical for me to focus on prevention rather than cure with my kids. Since they were little I have made it a priority to build up these skills and check myself if I am possibly undermining them (which of course happens sometimes).

Whether you have boys or girls it is important to instill in them that they are enough just as they are, that perfection is not the goal, and that they are loved unconditionally.
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How can we work on this? I have eight ideas to share that are interrelated. They are not rules nor a playbook to follow, just some food for thought on this topic to maybe get some communication going with your kids or discussion among parents. The post was huge so bear with me as I share 4 points today and another 4 next week.

 

1. Send them clear messages
Be the strongest, positive, voice and stand out against the noise that is all around them. While the media and their friends will always have cut through, you can be the safe space standing strong in your family’s values, the reality vs the hype, helping them make the best choices for them (helping being the key, rather than dictating things or trying to save them from pain). They will grow stronger in their self as they navigate things, but knowing you are in their corner helps them do that confidently.

 

In our house we discuss current issues and media that need to be called out.
I play music with positive messages that lift my girls up. While they are active online discovering their own music and media, I do not hesitate to pull the plug so to speak and explain why a message is wrong (especially misogyny in music videos or films).
When we have had issues with “friends” who have treated them so badly that they are constantly stressed or in tears I have explained what it means to be a good friend and that they should not tolerate being treated poorly. Better to find friends who accept you as you are and want to see you shine rather than bring you down, or be alone while you look to connect with new friends.

 

2. Encourage them to be themselves 100% and be seen as they are rather than hiding away
I have a friend with a daughter on a boys (American) football team. She is encouraged and celebrated for her strength, enthusiasm and willingness to join in where she wants rather than where might be easiest. Photos are shared happily on Facebook.
I had a male friend while growing up who often got upset and cried. He was taken down further by his parents for being a “crybaby” or weak.

 

Being seen as you are is an important lesson. Building a foundation on shame or inauthenticity is not a great place to start in life.

 

3. Get political- call out gender stereotyping, misogyny, discrimination of any kind

 

When kids receive the messages that it is okay (by society and /or by you) to bully, make fun of or discriminate based on someone’s gender, race, appearance, abilities, etc they receive the message that perhaps they will be judged harshly for whatever makes them different too.

 

Preach tolerance and acceptance for all and your children might just feel safe enough to be fully seen.
Let your kids know that differences do not mean we are “less than”, unlovable or unworthy.
Teach them that we all have a journey to take and no two are the same because no two people are the same. The differences are where we develop into our unique selves.

 

4. Be vocal

 

Don’t assume your kids know all this. You may think they understand that you would never reject them for who they are or stop loving them for a mistake they make, but most do not know that for sure. They need to be told in 50 different ways that they are loved, accepted and amazing just as they are.
Leave that lunchbox note.
Have the chat about unconditional love – I have spelled this out over and over to my girls so they know they can see home as a safe haven where they can bring troubles and worries.
Get physical – don’t withhold affection, give the hug, see what they need (even if different than how you were raised. This is where things can change).
Celebrate their courage, their kindness, their triumphs as they grow into themselves.

What has been your experience? Any tips to add? What could you have used when you were growing up?

Love and light,
Deb

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