I came across a lovely quote recently on the role of parents in building self-esteem, which perfectly captures why we include parents in our services at Clear Sky.
‘Parents are the ultimate teachers. They teach their children what to think about the world, what is important and unimportant and about their own self-worth. Whether overtly or covertly, children learn from their parents about who to love, how to love, how to be loved (or even if) they should love themselves’ (Dunham et al. 2011).
As adults, it is important that we can be reflective about the implicit or explicit messages that we are giving to our children. As the quote outlines, the way we approach the world is the way our children will approach it.
Here are three simple ways to start sending the right messages to your children to help shape their view of themselves and their world…
1. Spend dedicated, consistent time with your child
Even if it’s just for half an hour a week, ring fence a time to be with your child. Take part in an activity of their choice and ensure that there are no other distractions to take you away from this dedicated time. This means putting your phone away out of sight, on silent, for the time you are spending together. Focus on your child. Avoid giving suggestions or opinions in this time, just be there to listen to them and be alongside them with no agenda. Soak up the loveliness of being in each other’s company in this special time.
Message to child: you are worthy of my time. You are special enough for me to put everything else on hold for this period. I am here for you and I care about you.
2. Allow your child to make choices
Give your child two choices as often as you can to allow them the room to learn how to trust their instincts. This looks like giving two options in small ways e.g. ‘would you like an apple or banana for snack’ and in bigger ways ‘would you like to go to the park after school, or visit nanny?’. Make sure you are happy with the outcome of either choice, that there is no preferred outcome. Giving children choices helps them to feel empowered to make decisions and to have some control in their lives where there is often very little.
Message to your child: I trust you to make good choices. You know what you like and you can choose it. You are responsible for your own decisions.
3. Allow children to work things out for themselves
When something bad happens, your instinct might be to teach your child a lesson and over explain what has happened. Too many words can confuse children. Try to allow them the space to work out what happened for themselves by asking open questions and listening to what they have to say. Ask open questions like ‘I wonder what would have happened if you’d done it differently?’ and ‘I wonder how that made your brother feel?’ You don’t need to give your child all of the answers, the only way they will truly learn is through repeated experience.
Message to child: you can work out problems for yourself. You have a sense of what is wrong and right. You can trust your own feelings about a situation and make good choices.
Be mindful of the messages you might be giving your child in your actions, and make subtle changes to see a big impact over time.
Be mindful of times when you are acting distracted or dismissive when your child is trying to talk to you. Ask yourself ‘is the way I am acting giving my child the right message? What is the most important thing right now?’
Adjust your behaviour accordingly to give your child the implicit or explicit message they need to receive. If that message is ‘I love you’, ‘you are important’ or ‘I care about you’ then you can show that without using any words just by being open and present.
Try out the techniques above and let us know how you got on!
By Sophia Giblin, CEO
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