31 Jan 2021 Teaching children love and self-acceptance
By Kellie Bishop
In a world full of technology and social media, children are under more pressure to “keep up” than ever before. Our children are seeing the world through the eyes of others. Most of us heard news stories, learned lessons, and obtained information from our parents or other trusted adults. However, children now often know much more than we would like for them to because they have the internet at their fingertips. Whether the information they hear is accurate or not, they believe it because it is on the internet and delivered to them by people or sources that they consider reliable.
Just as children believe most information they read on the internet, they also see pictures on websites and social media outlets that they believe to be reality. They fail to see the filters and editing that create the perfect images of people they admire. This leads to insecurity and disappointment because they feel they should be keeping up with how others look or behave. When they cannot reach the unrealistic expectations they see on their screens, they can become depressed, anxious, and/or angry. The lack of self-love that children can experience has the potential to lead to other problems both personally and socially.
We have all heard parents speak to each other about self-care. You can’t pour from an empty cup. This same principle applies to our children and their self-esteem, but is often lost in today’s world without us even realizing it. For children to recognize value in others, they must respect and value themselves. Instead of focusing on things, achievements, or ways to be better than someone else, it is important for our children to respect and appreciate who they are at their core.
While it seems odd to teach pride, it is the key to teaching children about love. Bullies are often people who lack self-esteem and empathy, so they crave control of others. Those who are secure within themselves have no reason to belittle others in order to boost themselves because they already recognize their own value. Therefore, though they seem mean, bullies are often the most depressed children. Teaching your child self-love will help avoid these destructive behaviors.
There are several ways to teach children about self-love. Teach them about who you are and your family’s culture. Your family is the basis for who your child is and will be. At the same time, encourage your child to be true to their own self. They are valuable for their own uniqueness. Identify differences among family members, friends, classmates, teammates, etc., and then discuss how the diversity among the people in your circle is valuable. Provide your child with books and movies that are inclusive. Avoiding stereotyping will help your child see value in others. Finally, avoid correlating things or money with personal value. A person’s worth is not determined by their possessions.
While these may seem like common-sense things, it is difficult for us as adults to always exemplify these behaviors for our children. They learn from observing us, so it is crucial that we examine our own behavior and make modifications as needed. By changing our own behavior, we can teach our children to value themselves and to learn that what is normal for a person is ok and unique to each one of us. Instilling these values will help combat the low self-esteem and self-destructive thoughts that can occur from social media and the outside world. We all want what is best for our children, and that begins with teaching them to love themselves so they can love others as well.