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Teaching Your Kids Self-Care and Self-Love

February is the month of Valentine's Day, a day for celebrating love. While people express love for their families, friends, and partners during the holiday, self-love is also important and something to talk about with your kids. It's not uncommon for children and teens to practice negative self-talk or become too critical of themselves. Low self-esteem is a result of multiple factors, including comparison with others, rejection from peers, making mistakes, or being faced with challenges that seem too difficult to handle. Social media has also played a role in shaping how kids view themselves and how they compare their appearance and behaviors with other people. Children with disabilities and/or mental health disorders are more likely to be vulnerable to low self-esteem.

As a parent, there are many ways you can instill self-compassion and self-care habits in your kids. Start by opening up a dialogue with your children and listen without judgment so your kids feel comfortable sharing how they feel and any problems they might be going through. If your kids are dealing with academic or social issues, building a self-care toolbox can be beneficial. A self-care toolbox consists of activities and practices for self-care based on your child's preferences and what works for them. For example, the toolbox can include breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, taking a walk, listening to relaxing music, dancing, painting, or journaling. These should be practices that evoke a relaxation response to cope with negative feelings and stress. Having this toolbox will also be useful for when your kid is overwhelmed with their responsibilities and obligations. 

If your child is struggling with insecurities, including with their appearance, body, or capabilities, encourage them to write down positive affirmations as alternative thoughts and to say those out loud every day. It may take some time to change the thought process but doing this as an intentional daily practice can help your child make this change over time. Sometimes visually seeing these thoughts can also help, so you might want to encourage your child to hang post-it notes in their room. 

There are other methods that can disrupt negative self-talk. Ask your child if what they say to themselves would be what they would say to a friend they care about. It can be easy for us to be harsh with ourselves when we wouldn't be that way to the people we care about. Remind your kid to practice self-compassion and self-love as they would for others. Teach your kids to also practice forgiveness when they make mistakes or fail. Let them know they can still learn from these experiences while also being kind and patient with themselves. Reiterating the positive attributes and traits they have can help them embrace their self-worth as well.

When teaching your kids self-care and self-love, it's key to remember to serve as an example. If kids hear you speak critically about yourself or see that you don't take care of your needs when feeling stressed, they will become more likely to adopt those habits too. On the other hand, doing the opposite will make it more likely for them to follow suit. 

Helping your child value self-care and self-love will boost their confidence, empower them to stand up for themselves and share their voice, develop new skills and a growth mindset, and acknowledge their accomplishments.

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