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Peggy-headshotThe top 5 tips to teach your child to love herself

Valentine’s Day today is all about romantic love, a concept enthusiastically supported by greeting card companies, florists, and restaurants. By all means, give a card and go with your sweetheart to dinner.
After all, one of the best things you can do for your child is to keep your connection with your child’s other parent thriving and vibrant.

But there’s another story to Valentine’s Day that is useful for parents to remember. St. Valentine was imprisoned by the Roman Empire for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. While in prison, he healed his jailer’s daughter, and the note he left for her just prior to his execution was signed “from your Valentine.”

This story is one of a man who clearly knew himself and was willing to follow his convictions and pay the ultimate price of his own life, showing love and concern for others to his very last day. Our children face opposition, challenges, and conflict just like St. Valentine did. How are they faring? Do they face their challenges with confidence or do they struggle with self-doubt?

Self-esteem is a movement that has taken a life of its own in the past few decades. And really, if self-esteem means that you need to think that you are perfectly wonderful, isn’t that a recipe for disaster? What happens the next time you make a mistake? Your self-esteem could take a hit. It seems that St. Valentine had something better than self-esteem. He had self-meaningfulness—a clear sense of his own value and significance, a purer form of self-love based on principles, clarity, integrity, and compassion for his own imperfections.

We know that we can’t give our children self-esteem, we’ve tried. Some of us parents struggle with esteem issues ourselves. Why? It’s because it’s based on a feeling. If we are feeling special or important or meaningful, and then someone points out a flaw, the feeling changes. You can’t call your daughter special and expect her to feel that way when the rest of the world gives her feedback based on her actions and behaviors. You can teach her that like St. Valentine, she has value and significance that include, and are not in spite of her imperfections and flaws.

The top 5 tips to teach your child to love herself and develop self-meaningfulness:

  1. Practice gratitude. Giving thanks is one of the best ways to get your mind focused on what is going right. And this doesn’t mean being grateful that you don’t have it as bad as the other people  you know. I start my morning every day on the way to the shower by saying thank-you with each footstep and then by listing my blessings while in the shower. It sets a positive and joyful tone for the day.
  2. Create and practice a family vision and mission. What does your family stand for? What characteristics need to be developed and practiced to support them? How does each family member’s unique abilities add to the collective vision? In an effort to be all-inclusive and understanding, we have failed to take a stand. Our children need us to be leaders and to understand that we can have values without being judgmental.
  3. Exercise. It’s difficult to have a healthy mind and spirit when the body is sick or underused. Physical exercise has many physical benefits, but it also help with mood stability, better sleep, and increased energy. Find an activity you can enjoy with your child and spend more time with her as well!
  4. Eliminate worry. Kids are alarmingly good at worrying. They worry that they are the cause of bad things beyond their control, that more bad things will happen to them, that they will lose something or someone dear to them, and the list goes on. Often, the worry is a result of feeling helpless–an emotion of last resort. They don’t know what else to do, so they worry. The best antidote is to teach her to ask herself “what can I do?” She might not be able to solve the problem, but maybe she can talk about her fears with you. Focusing on what she can do will help relieve her anxiety and feel more powerful by taking positive action.
  5. Practice forgiveness. There is nothing that will make a person sicker than unresolved bitterness, shame, and hatred. If you child cannot forgive others, she won’t believe that she deserves forgiveness or be able to forgive herself. And she can’t love herself if she’s condemned for her mistakes.

This Valentine’s Day, I will be giving my kids a heart-shaped cookie, a huge hug, and the story of St. Valentine.

By:  Peggy Harper Lee  All Rights Reserved 2013