As a parent, it’s difficult and heart-breaking to hear your child be self-deprecating: I’m too dumb; I’m ugly; No one at school likes me; I wish I had never been born.
Your natural inclination is to firmly correct your child, but that’s not always wise and can lead to further damage. The best thing to do is to ask them why. By opening the lines of communication and allowing your child to demonstrate how they see the world, you can help change their perception through something as simple as affirmations.
Learning to use and channel affirmations can help your child transform negative self-image thought patterns — like the ones above — into positive and healthy self-talk.
When your child first starts saying affirmations, they may find it difficult to believe them to be true. With repetition comes reality and they will soon find these affirmations becoming true. You can also use guided meditation, as seen this video, as an icebreaker to get their mind free and clear and ready to receive positive thoughts.
Stand in Front of the Mirror
Like meditating, affirmations force children to turn off the negative voices in their heads. When we’re talking, it’s hard to think at the same time. Often, what we express verbally, we believe. For this exercise, stand your child in front of a mirror and have him or her speak out loud some of these mantras that focus on positive self-image, or have them come up with their our own:
- I am worthy of love and acceptance.
- I am beautifully and wonderfully made.
- I am getting better, more beautiful, and healthier every day.
- I have a warm and inviting smile.
- I am smart and have a bright future ahead of me.
- People love my sense of humor.
- I can do anything.
- I’m the best person I know at _____.
Couple daily affirmations with reading a good book on positive self-image together, like “Body and Soul: A Girl’s Guide to a Fit, Fun and Fabulous Life” by Bethany Hamilton. It is a great book for mothers of teenage girls wrestling with body and self-esteem issues.
A great way to help your teen is to encourage them to read their affirmations throughout the day. If they have a smartphone, they can set alarms at points of the day when it is safe to check their phones. Have them write down their affirmations on index cards or on the pages of their journal. When their alerts go off, they should flip to the page and quietly read them aloud.
Turn Them Into 30 Day Goals
Sit down with your child and ask them what they feel is the one area of their life where their self-esteem is the lowest. Then have them target that area for 30 days; writing down specific affirmations that will help to change their thoughts on it. If your child is struggling with being overweight, have them write down affirmations in the present tense that go like this:
In 30 days, I will be healthier and happier because I will exercise three times per week and I will be 5 pounds closer to my weight loss goal.
If your child struggles with self-esteem issues that are related to their appearance have them recite this affirmation:
Every morning before I go to school, I will make sure that I look and feel my best.
If your child struggles with emotional or behavioral issues that effect his or her self-worth, try this affirmation:
I am in control of my feelings at all times. I choose to be positive and happy.
Once the 30 days are completed, evaluate with your child how they did and if they noticed any improvement. If they did, then they can move on to another area for growth. If they feel they haven’t, try again and update the affirmation to make it relevant. A great book that comes highly recommended is “The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Build Confidence and Achieve Your Goals” by Lisa M. Schab LCSW. The book teaches teens to develop a healthy, realistic view of themselves that includes honest assessments of their weaknesses and strengths. It also helps them to distinguish between self-esteem, being self-centered, self-absorbed, or selfish.
As a parent, you have the power to help your child to overcome many of the future challenges associated with low self-esteem (i.e. poor decision making, drug or alcohol use, poor partner selection, etc.). By investing the time to help your teen develop the right amount of self-confidence and a healthy self-image, you’re paving the way towards making them positive, independent, and strong adults.