When Chloe, my twelve year old daughter was about four, she stood in front of her full length mirror admiring her reflection. When she saw me standing in the doorway, she smiled and said, ‘I love myself.’ My heart was filled to overflowing as I heard her expression of self love and I thought about how great it would be to stay little forever.
As we age, it’s often difficult to maintain those loving feelings. I’m thinking about my twenty year old who when she was seventeen, was more inclined to focus on the pimples on her face and her gangly limbs as she struggled through typical egocentric adolescent angst about what others might think of the way she looked.
Now, at age 20, Talia understands society’s pre occupation with how we look on the outside but also realizes the importance of loving her inner beauty.
Healthy self esteem is when we look at the people around us but don’t think of ourselves as any better or worse than anyone else. It’s also about loving yourself from the inside out. The kind of love that allows for age spots, acne and other imperfections. The kind of love that allows you to shine and says that you are proud of who you are.
If you believe that it is important for your child to love him or herself from the inside out, then you may be interested in the tips below:
How do you show that you love yourself? What do your children hear and see when you’re standing in front of your mirror? Do they hear you say, ‘I’m so fat. I look terrible in this dress.’ Or do they hear you say, ‘I like the colour of my shirt against my skin.’ On other occasions, do they hear you say, ‘I’m so clumsy. I’m always spilling things.’ Or do they hear you say, ‘Oops, I’ll get a rag to clean this up.’ Keep in mind that your children are listening and watching even when you think they aren’t.
Separate the Deed From the Doer
As cliché and obvious as this may sound, it is very important to remember that even when your child behaves badly, he or she is not ‘bad.’ In fact, even when he or she behaves well, try not to say that he or she is a ‘good’ boy or girl. When you are happy or proud or when you are angry or disappointed, comment on the behaviour that has made you feel this way. So, instead of saying, ‘You weren’t a good girl for mommy today,’ say, ‘When you don’t share with your brother, I feel disappointed.’
Choose Your Words Carefully
Even with the best of intentions, there are times when parents use demeaning words or label their children in a way they regret later. I am thinking of comments such as ‘don’t be an idiot,’ ‘you’re so selfish,’ ‘don’t be a loser,’ and one of the more common, ‘you’re so lazy.’ Even though we may slip up from time to time, it is our responsibility not to demean or use words that will make our children feel put down. It is our responsibility as parents not to call our children names.
Sit With Your Children While They Watch Television
Watching any program with your child is important but in relation to this topic, especially when they are watching popular programs that perpetuate society’s infatuation with botox and better bodies. Ever watched Toddlers and Tiaras? It’s a real eye opener. By watching with them, you can comment and ask questions that will help them to evaluate what they are watching and how they are being influenced. I don’t believe in forbidding or censoring most programs as this may encourage even greater curiosity and may lead to them watching behind your back.
Make Family Their Foundation
If a child feels that his or her family is working together as a team, that people care about one another, treat each other respectfully and help each other out with responsibilities, then that child is more likely to feel a sense of security and belonging. He or she will feel an overall sense of well being, loving others and will be more likely to feel good about him or herself.
Looking for more ways to encourage your child to develop healthy self-esteem? Sara has more pointers here.
There are a few times during the year that different religious holidays overlap. For example, Passover sometimes overlaps with Easter or Christmas with Channukah. One of the benefits of being a child of an interfaith couple is that there may be no debate about which grandparent’s house to visit for a religious holiday. However, being the child of parents who have each been raised in homes with different religious beliefs may raise some other concerns.
I was raised in a traditional Jewish home but I was the only one of four siblings to marry someone of the same religion. Our children, by default, are exposed to Jewish rituals in our home. We don’t have to think about which religion we are going to follow. It’s automatic. Over the years I have observed family members and friends who have married partners from different religious backgrounds raise their children in various ways.
I have known interfaith couples who vow that they are going to observe both religions but then give their children inconsistent messages. For example, they may send their children to school on the holiest of holidays when all the other Jewish, Hindu, Baha’i or Christian kids, for example, are either at home or in synagogue, church or at their temples. Ultimately, many of these children grow up without a strong sense of religious identity or affiliation with any religion.
I realize that religion is a very sensitive topic and that many wars have been fought because of it. I also realize that religion can bring communities together as a result of shared tradition, beliefs and observances. Bringing different religions into one home can be an opportunity to learn and grow from one another, or it can cause friction and divisiveness. For example, according to Jewish law, if a child is born to a Jewish mother, that child is automatically considered Jewish. But what if the Christian father educates his child about Jesus and Christianity? Does that mean the child is no longer a Jew? This too can be confusing and may need the assistance of religious leaders to work through.
When two people who have been raised with different religious beliefs come together, it is very important to talk about the way in which they want raise their children and the religious values they want to pass on. Even the least religious of people can be sensitive if they feel that their religion is being denigrated. Even couples who respect and value each other’s religious differences can become confrontational if they differ about the beliefs they want to instil in their children.
It appears that there may be several approaches to choose from—to observe both religions equally, to choose one of the religions as primary or to observe neither. In some homes, neither parent has an attachment to his or her religion. Perhaps they were not exposed too much observance when growing up or have purposely rebelled against strong doctrines. Other couples consciously expose their children to both religions, educate them about each and model how people from different religions can live harmoniously and respect one another. In some families, the couple adopts one religion over the other and raises their children with that faith in mind. Sometimes the children attend religious school to compensate for the limited knowledge from one parent. Sometimes one of the parents embraces the other’s religion or may even go through a process of conversion. Often, the partner who has converted is more devout than the spouse who was born into his or her religion.
Bottom line is that interfaith couples have an extra responsibility when parenting—they need to consciously decide which approach they are going to adopt before they have children walking by their sides.