Growing up with a feeling of “value” and “self-worth” is important for all of our children. In my personal and professional experience, I have learned that many adults did not feel a sense of self-worth as children. What does this mean exactly, and how does this affect adulthood?
Self-worth is something that comes from within. However, it needs to be nurtured and facilitated when we are children so that it grows and develops within us. When parents focus on positive feelings, unconditional acceptance, and helping kids step out of their comfort zones even if they make mistakes, they are facilitating the development of self-esteem and self-worth. Children need to be encouraged, supported, and accepted no matter what they do in life. This is how we can help them achieve this positive self-image.
As a child, I was considered the black sheep of the family. I often was the one who caused trouble and created mayhem. Just having a particular label like this can create a feeling of shame or lack of self-worth. I constantly felt like I was not as good as my 3 other siblings. Over time, these feelings build up and lead to a very poor concept of the self.
As adults, we need to lead by example, demonstrating how we still value ourselves, even if we make a mistake or step out of our own comfort zone. We are compassionate with others when they have failures and successes, so why do we not give the same respect to ourselves? We need to celebrate both our successes and our failures, equally, and see them both as an opportunity for growth. Our children are watching every move we make. Today, it seems like children are doing “as we do,” and not necessarily “as we say.” We need to be good role models to foster a sense of self-love and worth within our children.
Creating more positive interactions with our children is one great way to begin this process. When we are spending time with our children doing an activity, we can bring positivity to the forefront. One way to do this is by being optimistic about the process of what we are doing, not necessarily the outcome.
When my kids were little, we went to an animal rescue farm to volunteer. We did this every Sunday morning as a family. We left our cell phones in the car and connected to each other and the job at hand. This was an opportunity to come together to provide service. When we left, we talked about our process, what we did and how it felt. I believe this was an esteem-building exercise for all of us. We all felt great about ourselves and our contribution after doing this activity together.
When I think back to my childhood, I know I would have felt differently if there had been some discussion about qualities that my mom and dad saw in themselves and appreciated. At dinner, it was a time for children to be seen and not heard; however, if it could have been a time that we appreciated something about ourselves and shared it with the other family members, things could have been different. These are just a few things that would have helped me back in my childhood to feel good about myself and see that my parents practiced self-love, setting these examples for me.
As parents struggle, it is important that they allow their children to witness their struggles and challenges and how they move through them and solve them. Developing healthy coping strategies needs to be modeled in childhood. What better way experience this than to actually watch the people we admire most demonstrating it through their lives. Our children need to develop resilience as part of self-worth and self-esteem. This means celebrating both the successes and failures.
What would it be like for you to share with your children what you love about yourself, what you feel good about today, and what you appreciate in yourself? Imagine the impact this exemplification would have on the next generation. Ask them to share as well. This could be a family practice and a beautiful one at that!