A client asks, “How can I help my child have good self esteem, when I don’t?”
The fact that she can recognize that this is a problem is the first step! So often, parents, particularly those that have personal histories to heal, focus intensely on helping their children to have the confidence they don’t. However, we cannot teach self-esteem.
We can support children in their natural unfolding which preserves much inherent self-esteem, but for our children to know how to live a confident life, they need this modeled. A natural way that we do this is by caring for ourselves as we care for our children. Here are a few ideas to model what we wish for our children.
1) “I want them to know they can do or be anything”- Pause for a moment, and ask yourself how well you are nurturing your own interests. You were born with a divine spark within in you that seeks to be expressed. You are here to share your special creativity, wisdom and talents that are a gift to this world. As parents, it is easy to lose ourselves in parenting, so take some conscious time to schedule yourself back in. Explore ways that you can nurture your creativity with your children (i.e. dancing or doing yoga together, painting together, etc.) and explore how to ensure that you are getting time to purse your interests alone. Doing so will refresh you and help you to apply your creative essence to your parenting.
2) “I want them to know they are loved, that they matter” – Ask yourself whether you feel that you matter and/or whether your children see you treat yourself this way. If you deeply struggle with believing that you are loved and matter, you may want to seek support from a counselor, a supportive Circle or self-help materials that help you compassionately reparent yourself.
Even when we know we are deserving, the demands of parenthood tend to put us in last place. Reclaim your value as a gift to yourself and your children. A basic concept I always share is to imagine that you are one of the children you are parenting. For example, if you have two children, imagine that you are a parent to three, and remember to check in on your needs throughout the day, just as you do your children. (“They need a snack, what do I need? “They need some outside time, what do I need? Or “How can I enjoy this moment?” “What do I need to start the day off right?” and take action to make it happen even if it is for less time than your life pre-kids allowed.) The more we consider our own needs throughout the day, the more we send the message to ourselves that we do matter, which actually builds our own self-esteem (and models self-worth to our children).
3) “I want them to feel free to express themselves” – Ask yourself, How do I model freedom in self-expression? In what ways do I shut myself down or conform to expectations? Do I speak up for myself? In life? With my partner? With my children? Do I let my soul shine?
Your children need to see you speaking up for yourself, saying yes when you truly want to do something, and no when you don’t. They need to see you setting loving boundaries and not allowing others to treat you unkindly.
They also need to see you celebrate yourself. Parents will smile adoringly at their children when they are doing a dance or learning a skill. We see the light in them and appreciate it. Parenting ourselves means bringing this appreciation to ourselves, accepting ourselves fully and allowing ourselves to shine. If you love to dance, dance freely. If you love to sing, sing loudly. If you love to write, write fearlessly.
Our children are our teachers, they unfold and express themselves without fear and with divine knowing that they are here to simply be their full, bright selves. (We knew this too until we were shut down in one way or another). Watch them and learn to hold your own “inner child” up with pride. When we see and celebrate ourselves like a proud parent, our self confidence grows, and we help our children know how to carry their exuberant self-expression and confidence into adulthood.
Children give us the gift of unlocking the passionate desire to love and care for another. When we turn this caring toward our own healing, transformation and vibrant self-confidence emerge within us and our children!