Parenting is hard work. Parents are expected to keep their children in line, teach them right from wrong, and help them become good people, all while being mostly exhausted. Then there’s the added pressure of helping our little-ones acquire a strong sense of self-worth, which, if neglected could mean low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, or a host of other problems for our offspring. Even though most of us have resigned ourselves to the fact that our kids will likely be in therapy for something that we did, at some point in their lives, we still don’t despair! Because when it comes to self-worth, there are simple things that we can do to make sure that our children have a healthy sense of self.
But first, what is self-worth?
Self-worth can be defined as the value that we place on ourselves. It’s slightly different from self-esteem, in that the latter is often used to describe how we see ourselves compared to others, whereas, self-worth is more intrinsic.
Children’s sense of self-worth comes directly from their caretakers. Specifically, it springs from what a child sees when she looks into her caretaker’s eyes. If she sees warmth, love, and openness, then the child will feel like she is important, but, if she sees distance, anger, or irritation, she will feel badly about herself.
Now, clearly, none of us can have warm and inviting looks on our faces twenty-four hours a day, but, as long as we are giving our kids more comforting gestures than side-eye-glances, we are on the right track.
One of the most important pitfalls to avoid as a parent, is the trap of conditional love. This occurs when we only give praise and attention to our kids when they are doing things that we like. In this way, our children learn that they must behave in a certain way to receive love, and that belief is what builds insecurities.
To counteract this trap, we need to separate praise for behavior, from a warm and loving approach to our child as a person. This way we can help our kids learn from an early age that who they are, and what they do, are not the same things.
So, what are some concrete ways to help our kids develop a great sense of self-worth?
Ask your child about her artwork, or the imaginary friend that she is talking to. Be open and curious about her answers. Leave the judgments behind, and allow yourself to see things from her point of view for a little while.
Spend some time one-on-one with your child. Look into his eyes, and practice telling him that you love him without saying a word. Give big hugs, and enjoy the wonderful connection that the two of you share.
Make Space For Feelings
Help your child acknowledge and discuss her feelings. Let her know that it is okay to have feelings, even if they don’t, well, feel good. Teach her that feelings are an important aspect of who she is, and that they matter.
Tell fun stories about things that you and your child did, before she was old enough to remember. She will love hearing about the silly faces that she made, what her first word was, and how she went through a phase of only eating Cheerios. Also, It will help her see that you have always known that she was someone worth paying attention to.
If you would like more ideas on how to cultivate self-worth in your children, contact us. We are happy to help.