A few months ago, a friend of mine was struggling after a messy break-up. As I'm a life-coach, I offered to support her through the recovery process and help her regain her confidence and sense of self-esteem.
After just a couple of sessions, it became quite clear to my friend just how radically self-love and acceptance transformed how she felt about herself and her life; she was finally beginning to appreciate her inner-beauty and the power she had to recover a true sense of her identity.
We got talking about how incredible it is that growing-up we're not ever really taught how to truly love ourselves. Most of the time in fact, if anything, we're taught the opposite; that to love ourselves means that we're vain, selfish and narcissistic. We begin to believe that love is something conditional and that in order to feel worthy we must do more, be more and have more.
Research has shown that children who have a healthy level of self-esteem and confidence learn faster and achieve better academically than children described as having low self-esteem. There are a multitude of reasons why a child might suffer from low self-esteem but in general it's caused by the beliefs that they hold regarding their own self-image.
Experts Stewart and Joines¹, explain that these beliefs regarding self-image have been outlined in a life-script by children at around age four or five, polished and made more definite at age seven, and by 12-years-of-age they are no longer questioned and are beginning to be lived out as future truths. However, as frightening as this might sound if you're worried about your child's development, limiting-beliefs that don't encourage a child's self-esteem can be changed.
As the mother of two young children, my friend was worried that maybe her kids were not aware of how important it is to love yourself. She wanted them to benefit from great self-esteem too, so I came up with a list of five simple and fun ways that she could use to promote a healthy-level of self-esteem in her kids:
1. Create a wonder-wall or wall of love: Pick any wall in your house and make it your family's special place to stick up empowering affirmations, your favourite photos, your kid's works of art, little post-it notes that explain what you love about each other - basically all the things that make you feel good. It's really creative, highly visual and your kids will love to get involved. If could also be a wonderful talking point and work-of-art when guests come over!
2. Gratitude bedtime routine: As you tuck your kids into bed take turns in telling each other one thing each that you like about yourself, and one thing each that was good about your day. This encourages children to seek out the positive aspects of their day-to-day lives and also look for the good in themselves. It will make you feel good too!
3. Encourage their creativity: Imagination is the most precious gift your child possesses. Do they have a flair for drawing, painting or making up stories? Maybe an ear for music or creating little theatre productions? Or perhaps they just love making mud-pies in the back garden? Whatever it is, it's so important to encourage their ability to imagine because this skill will provide them with confidence, a sense of achievement and the ability to think of different possible and satisfactory solutions when faced with a problem in life.
4. Give them responsibility: This could be in the form of assigning household chores, or asking what their opinion is on certain things. It could also mean teaching them about how to manage money or do the food shopping (age-dependent). Allowing your child a sense of responsibility enables them to have faith in their own capabilities, trust their own judgment and develop their decision-making abilities.
5. Spend time in nature/outdoors: Various studies have demonstrated a clear link between healthy levels of self-esteem in children and time spent in nature or doing outdoor pursuits. So just encouraging your kids to go for a walk down to the park, take a bike-ride or go for a stroll through your local nature-reserve can have a big impact on their sense of well-being.
The fantastic thing about doing these activities with your kids is that it won't just benefit them; it will help encourage a healthy sense of self-esteem and confidence among the whole family - parents and extended family included! Overall you'll be working towards creating a more loving, accepting and nurturing environment that's great for everyone!
¹ Stewart I, Joines V (1987) TA Today: A New Introduction
to Transactional Analysis. Lifespace Publishing,
Nottingham, UK, and Chapel Hill, NC, USA