With the summer winding down and kids going back to school isn’t it time you had The Talk? The self-acceptance and self-love talk, that is?
While many parents might remember their school years in a manner reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days, the actual experience of kids in school is very different. Between the pressure to do well in classes, the challenges posed by extra-curricular activities, the seemingly all-absorbing relationships with their peers and the changes they will go through as they slowly transform into adults, kids have an awful lot on their minds and so much of it feels completely beyond their control. Growing up is a big challenge for kids, and it’s a lot harder if they don’t feel up to the challenge.
As a parent you are and always will be one of the most important people in your kids’ life and your words and actions matter. That’s why it’s vitally important that you talk to your kids about their self-esteem. We don’t mean the sort of pop psychology that tells them they are the best at everything, but the kind of self-knowledge that allows them recognize and built their strengths while acknowledging and compensating for their weaknesses. They need to understand that no person is perfect, and that it is OK to make mistakes as long as they learn and grow from them. They need to take pride in the difficulties they overcome whether they are achievements that make all the other kids in school envious, or more personal accomplishments no one recognizes except for the two of you.
It’s incredibly important to put value into effort rather than into accomplishment. Praise the process, not the result. It’s important that kids learn to take pride and love in the effort itself, not just the result. Kids who are too results oriented become perfectionists and will crack in the face of failure. Kids who are process oriented understand that failure is a part of growing and that the goal should not just be succeeding but constantly, persistently getting better. Life isn’t a series of fits and starts with constant tests. It’s an uphill climb. We need to instill the belief that it’s OK to fall down as long as you can get back up keep on climbing.
Learning to love ourselves is our life’s work. Helping your kids to learn how early is incredibly important. Teaching kids how to love themselves at their highest and lowest points is the greatest gift a parent can give.