Cupid is always so hard at work during the month of February that we all seem to have love on our minds.
Valentine’s Day, more than any other day of the year, is the time when even the love-shy amongst us feel okay not only telling people how they love them, but even counting the ways!
In my Principal’s Message last February I reminded parents of the importance of showing and telling our children that we love them. I spoke of how critical it is for our children to know how much they are loved by way of our attention, our affection and our support. I stand by my message, however I have come to recognize that it was not complete. You see, as parents, we are responsible not only to love our children but to teach them to love themselves. This is the part I failed to include in last year’s message and over the course of this past year I have come to realize more and more the importance of this parental role.
When our children hear lots of “I love yous” we just assume that this will lead to them becoming confident and self-loving people. Unfortunately, what the children are hearing is that someone else loves them and incredibly, self-love doesn’t just naturally follow. We need to let our children know that they must learn to love themselves first in order to pass that loving behaviour on to others. Worried that teaching our children to practice the tenets of self-love will turn them into demanding, selfish children? The good news is that it doesn’t, and, in fact, it generally leads to the complete opposite. Teaching your child to say “I love me” can help them when confronted with challenging life situations. It can actually act like an antidote for all the external forces that they must face on a daily basis as they learn to navigate the social complexities of life.
In my job I often have discussions with children about what ails them. Generally, at this tender age, life’s problems seem to be all about not fitting in or belonging, feeling left out of one group or the other or sensing that others don’t like them. What others think of us seems to be so important especially during the childhood years. But what about what we think of ourselves? Our self-esteem or our feelings of self-worth are directly related to our self-love. When you love yourself first, high self-esteem just naturally follows. High self-esteem helps to build confidence and courage and these are the tools we need to hit the world head on. With this in mind, now when I speak to students because they are sad that someone spoke badly about them or someone didn’t include them in the group because they don’t like them, my first question to the student is “but do you like you”? I encourage the students to spend more time loving themselves than worrying about who else loves them. With an arsenal of “I love me” under their belt, children move forward with better resiliency and a much more positive outlook.
As parents, the number one way we can teach self-love to our children is to love ourselves. We can do this by taking care of ourselves and putting ourselves in our daily agenda. If we have lost ourselves in parenthood, we need to spend time rediscovering ourselves. We need to stop listening to inner and outer critics, feel good about the life we are living and be our authentic selves. If we base our self-worth only on the external world, we will never feel like we are enough. Quite simply, we must love ourselves first and all the rest falls into place. Remember, our children watch us. They do very little of what we say and lots of what we do. Indeed, the best gift you can give your child is to show them that you love yourself. It’s not a selfish act. What a wonderful model it is for children to see their parents passionate about who they are and feeling good in their own skin. Children will live up to the standard of love we have for ourselves and the love that is shared in the home.
This Valentine’s Day be sure to share the love, not only with your significant other and your children but with yourself. It’s your parental duty after all!
Principal and Co-Founder
Children’s Garden School