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.
Last week I covered the first 4 points on how to help our kids love and accept themselves as they are. Even with all 8 ideas there is so much more that just comes up day by day in the moment of parenting. Every kid and home is different and we all have to find the best way to connect and communicate with our children at all different ages and stages.
The first four points were 1. send them clear messages, 2. encourage them to be themselves 100% and be seen as they are rather than hiding away, 3. get political- call out gender stereotyping, misogyny, discrimination of any kind, and 4. be vocal.
These are not steps nor a playbook to follow, just ideas to get us all thinking and hopefully communicating with our kids.
Four more ideas on self love and acceptance for kids:
5. Be honest
We adults are imperfect.
We (I would say most of us) had our own difficulties growing up, or now.
Let them see you fully.
Apologise when you are in the wrong. You CAN change your mind.
Tell them stories from your life that let them in on your human struggle. Being left out or uninvited to the party, the horrible nickname you had in high school, the lack of a date for the big dance. Kids see how we live now- social life, confidence, love, etc and it is hard for them to imagine their parents were just like them once. They need to know they are not alone and that finding yourself and standing in your own power is a journey we have to take.
6. Teach them about self care
Model this for them – instead of being a martyr who does not take care of themselves, show them that you are worthy and deserve to have your needs met without having to justify them to others.
Explain about balance and the importance of rest. They are more than accomplishments. They do not have to do “everything” and can say no to what is not right for them. While it is important to teach kids about commitment and follow through, it is equally important to respect their feelings and listen when they have clear reasons why they do not want to participate in something. Use these moments to connect and talk deeper – what is going on? has anything happened? do they need support?
Help them with figuring out what makes them feel nourished and whole. Give them opportunities to try things
like yoga or meditation, creative expression, do they need to move their body everyday, what is non-negotiable in their life?
7. Respect their wishes and needs as individuals
Following on from number six, understand about their letting go of sport or hobby if they need or want to. Their reasons may not fit your idea of what is okay, but check in with yourself first about where that story is coming from. If it is motivated by “what will ‘they’ think” consider prioritising your child’s needs above the need to conform or make others happy.
Respect their individual style, choices and ways of showing the world who they are. Self expression is part of the journey to self love.
Are they an introvert or extrovert and what does that mean for them?
Are they sensitive or have sensory issues?
Who are they and how do they have to work to be okay in the world all while being themselves?
8. Teach them to trust their gut
Learning to trust their intuition and gut is part of the journey – they need to gain awareness of what they want, how things make them feel and what is right for them (even when it is not what you would pick for yourself or them).
Children are autonomous beings even if parents get caught up in the illusion that they are fully under their purview or control. Really we teach and guide and help them grow, but they are born with a lot of their preferences and instincts ready to go.
My then-toddler asserted her feelings on what clothes to wear to the point that she would dodge my attempts to put certain items on her or change when i was not around. Her older sister never expressed a care about this until she was four years old. I could persist and dominate her or accept that she was clear on her feelings and let her pick her own clothes.
My now-thirteen year old (my oldest) is in a special academic program in her high school. She is just finishing her first year. At the start of the year she had to sign up for some of the extra activities and programs she could access. Being the nervous parent of a new high schooler I admit I was not hands off in that selection process. Nine months later she was due to go on an overnight science camp and came to me upset and wanting to back out. She was not interested in the topic at all and would rather be at school.
Having spent some money on the fee I paused to chat, asking if it was about something else. Some of her friends were going so I accepted that she was not anxious about the social side of it. In the end I trusted her self-awareness and judgement and decided to pull her out last minute. I learned to be hands off going forward and let her choose what is right for her, even if it is not what I thought she would choose. This is how they learn to trust themselves, partly by us showing trust in them.
When she is faced with tougher situations in high school she will remember that she knows herself and that she has instincts that guide her on her own path. That is the path we want strengthened – not the media pushing an agenda or friends who want your kid to tow their line. They need to feel strong enough in themselves to walk away when something is not right for them, and to know that they are okay just as they are.
How do you work to instill these messages in your kids?
Love and light,