No, self-love isn't just all about me, myself and I. Neither is it just a superficial self-care routine. So, what is self-love, and how do we cultivate it in our kids?
In the era of social media and viral trends, content is often easily misled. And one such buzzword that’s regularly misconceived is self-love. Self-love is essential for both kids and adults, but it’s also crucial to know that loving yourself goes beyond spa sessions, retail therapy or a detailed skin care routine.
Rather, self-love is a vital concept that should be instilled as a child during growing years – it’s essentially the way we feel about ourselves, and in one way or another, it affects everything we do. It should be ingrained in our kids before they reach adulthood, so that feeling assured about themselves is just a part of everyday life. So parents, here’s the lowdown on teaching your children how to love themselves truly, madly and deeply…
HOW TO TEACH KIDS SELF-LOVE
But first, let’s learn the crux of self-love
Skip Googling the definition of self-love! Contrary to popular belief, self-love isn’t just about honouring the good parts, but also the crummy ones. It’s to learn to accept that our weaknesses are a part of us, but to also work on them to bring about growth. It’s also about learning to love every aspect of ourselves – big, small and everything in between – and putting our needs first instead of sacrificing them to please others. There’s a fine line drawn in the sand between self-love and selfishness. And that’s where parents come in to debunk the differences for kids.
Know why kids should be taught self-love
Let’s be real. As parents, you’d naturally want to protect your children from feeling inferior or being taken advantage of. Self-love is an integral practice to have as kids inevitably transition into adulthood. Having high self-esteem and self-worth are born out of self-love. So this practice will significantly reduce self-doubts — often experienced by children during their childhood.
When kids love themselves, they make confident decisions and can comfortably stand up for themselves. They’ll also be able to acknowledge when they need help. If this crucial process is ignored at an impressionable age, before they know it, they can quite easily get sucked into a world perceived as a nasty popularity contest.
So, how do we teach kids self-love?
1. Make them feel important
Nothing boosts your kids’ self-esteem more than knowing that they’re valued and appreciated. Make them feel important by having them play a role in day-to-day activities. Making decisions, joining in on grocery runs or even letting them help you with your work will constantly allow them to feel that their presence and thoughts are of value. You’ll find them wanting to willingly come forth in the future to take on challenges and believe that they can overcome them.
2. Compliment them the right way
How many times have you said “aww, you’re such a pretty girl?” or “wow, you’re a strong boy” to kids? We’ve all done it. But making surface level compliments like these can actually cause more harm than good to children’s self esteem. Complimenting their intellect and praising good efforts (rather than just good results) builds your child’s self-worth more than you can imagine.
If you tell them an A is great and C is a great effort, they won’t determine their worth based on grades. At the same time, they’ll likely strive to achieve the A with better effort. Compliments are a big part of kids’ lives. They act as a reward and assure them which behaviours are acceptable and commendable. So, compliment them, but try to do it the right way.
3. Ask them how they feel about themselves
Sometimes, kids need to be nudged to look within themselves and figure out how they feel about their achievements and setbacks. Ask them questions like, “how do you feel about winning that game?” This will reinforce that feeling good comes from within and not from the approval of others. It creates an avenue for them to be in touch with their emotions. They’ll begin to feel closer to themselves and to you as they show more interest in expressing. Show them how to treat themselves to something they like, to celebrate without any specific reason. Exercise self-reflection with them for a check-in on what ticks. This is how they’ll learn to give thoughtful attention to their mental health in the future.
4. Self love isn’t being selfish
Explain to your children that loving themselves is as important as caring for others. We’re often taught formally to be kind and to care for others but forget to do that for ourselves. Self-love takes the form of a shield to set healthy boundaries and that’s not being selfish. So, there’s no reason to feel guilty about doing so.
This will enable them to respect themselves and others, hand-in-hand. When they learn to feel loved and happy as a result, they’ll be able to spread that positivity to their relationships. Instead of being caught up in conflicts, they’ll spend less time worrying or hating others and direct their energy into being more kind and caring. That sounds like a win-win to us.
5. Most importantly, tell them self-love isn’t linear
Yup, that’s a tough pill to swallow. Tell kids that self-love takes time, growth and practice. It’s not a ticket to lifetime happiness. The reality is that it’s a journey and a work-in-progress. Remind your kiddos that they may not always love themselves and may even feel lost in the process. But emphasise that it’s okay and human to feel so. What’s important is learning to pick themselves up again and to move forward. Teach them to reassure themselves this way: “I don’t love myself today. But tomorrow is a new day and so, I’ll try again.”
Time to put it all together…
Hopefully you will have realised by now how self-love plays a significant role in covering various aspects of life — relationships, mental health, confidence, setting boundaries and so much more. It’s an essential habit to have for an improved quality of life.
But, know that not all kids develop at the same rate or in the same way. Pay close attention to your child’s needs cos’ you know them the best. Notice how they perceive themselves when they share with you about their day or time with friends. Being involved as much as possible in their growing years or even beyond in tweens and teens, can help troubleshoot any detours in the road to loving themselves.
Psst…here’s a pro tip: don’t forget that you are your kids’ role model. You play an enormous role in shaping how they think. Setting an example for them would mean that you learn to love yourself too.
So, dear parents, love yourself, and teach your littlies to do the same!