When I reflect back on my own life, I clearly see situations that would not have happened if I had more love for myself. There were words that were said to me by others that affected me far too much, there were people that I allowed to take advantage of me and to disrespect me all because I did not honor and respect myself. I’m not trying to take all of the blame for people mistreating me. But when you love yourself and when you honor and respect yourself, then you set the example for how others should be treating you. If I am being honest with myself, then I have to admit that I struggled with self-love as I was growing up. And that was reflected in many of my actions, the choices I made, and the people that I chose to align myself with.
And now that I am a mother, I don’t want my kids to struggle in that area. I think all of my kids are wonderful people, and I’m not saying that just because I’m their mother (well…yes I am…but it’s true). I can just hear my mother saying, “Every crow thinks their crow is the blackest.” That’s right…and I want my kids to think “I’m the blackest.” “I’m the best.” I want them to know this deep down in their souls. So when someone approaches them with some mess, they’ll know that this is pure foolishness and that they deserve so much better.
But how do I teach my kids self-love when it seems like the world is working against me? And what do I mean by the world? I mean those mean-spirited kids who have no problem with saying awful things to my babies. Or the images that they see every day that say their kind of beauty is not the standard. I mean, the constant negative images and stories that we see and hear about African-Americans—the studies, the news segments, and the reality TV shows. And finally, I don’t want my insecurities to somehow impact my kids and their love for themselves.
Over the last 21 years, I’ve tried so many things to teach my children self-love. I have not always gotten it right, but here are a few things that I’ve figured out along the way:
Communicate Often: The best way to teach them about self-love is to communicate with them often. And when they get to a certain age, be intentional about teaching them what self-love is.
Be Approachable: Your kids should be able to come to you and share with you the things that are going on in their lives and the things that may be bothering them. This will be your opportunity to re-inforce all of the things you are trying to teach them.
Know Your Child: Get to know your child. What do they like to do? What are their talents? Who are their friends? What did they do at school today? What are their insecurities? Knowing these things will help to guide you on things you need to teach them and focus on. So, this takes me back to my first point…communicate often.
Understand Your Impact: Words do hurt! As a parent you have the power to build your child up or tear them down with your words. Please be cognizant of what you are saying to your child and how you are saying it.
Be an Example: Your kids are watching you, and they will emulate you. If you are not honoring and respecting yourself, then you are setting the wrong example for your kids.
Focus on What Matters: Self-love has less to do with how you look and what you are wearing and more to do with how you regard yourself. They’re not awesome because of hairstyles or outfits and other external things that could be taken away in an instance. They’re awesome because of who they are at the core of their being, and I want them to know that and appreciate that.
Share Your Story: Share the good and the bad with your children. Discuss the things that you struggled with and how you were able to overcome them and what you would do differently.
And finally, teach them about joy: Happiness can be taken away… it’s external. But joy, that’s something that they should have on the inside. And when they leave the house and encounter all of those things in the world that are designed to tear them apart, they’ll still have their God-given joy.
Tell me, how do you teach your kids about self-love?