Helping Kids Get Excited about their Unique Beauty
We talk a lot about the issue of ‘bullying others’, even dedicating an entire week to it. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that kids also ‘bully themselves’, creating negative self-talk that can have a lasting impact on their mental and emotional well-being, as well as their confidence.
I’d like to share a personal experience when I found myself going down a self-defeating, self-bullying path.
In grade 8 I represented my school in the running relay at the annual track and field day. After I had competed, a classmate came up to me and blurted, ‘You have big, fat legs.’ I was shocked and hurt.
What my classmate didn’t know was that I was already struggling to like my legs. I used to compare them to my friend’s legs – wishing mine were more like hers. Since my legs were bigger and shorter, I made it mean that mine were not beautiful. Comparing myself to her legs was ridiculous – it wasn’t going to change anything – it certainly wasn’t going to make my legs longer and thinner. Knowing this didn’t stop me from complaining about my legs to my mum.
One day she turned to me and said, ‘Let’s go to the doctor and see if she can cut them off.’ That was a wake-up call for me. Gradually I began to realize that I was wasting so much time and energy bullying myself. I was missing out on the beauty around me, including my own.
If a child you know is struggling with body image challenges, here are a few suggestions on what I did to help me be more appreciative of my body:
1. I found a photo of an Olympic athlete who had big, muscular legs standing proudly on the podium after winning a gold medal. She was happy and proud, not concerned about the size of her legs. That photo, pinned on my wall, inspired me to always remember to have an ‘attitude of gratitude’.
2. I wrote uplifting, encouraging, supportive thoughts and words. I placed them everywhere that I would see them. I repeated them over and over, knowing that the voice I heard the most throughout my day was my own, so I needed my words to be powerful and positive. Two of my favorites: ‘I choose to love and respect myself’ and the word ‘gratitude’.
3. I took the parts of my body that I resented and wrote down all the reasons why I needed to be grateful. For instance, recognizing that my legs allow me to run and walk, wear my favourite boots and take me wherever I want. This exercise played a pivotal role in helping me appreciate and be thankful for my body.
4. I posted photos of myself as a little girl around my room, choosing photos from ages 3 – 8. In these photos I saw a young girl who loved life, who smiled just because she could. She didn’t worry about how much she weighed or how big her legs were. These photos reminded me to treat myself with kindness and compassion
This is what I know: It’s crucial to teach and model to kids the importance of kindness, acceptance and compassion, not only towards others, but also towards themselves.
Until next time…
17 May 2023
Question to Ask a Child
Kids experience the same emotions as adults – anxious, sad, disappointed, embarrassed, angry, scared—to name a few.
A key part of emotional resilience is teaching children strategies to help them manage and navigate emotions in healthy ways. This will make a difference not only throughout their childhood, but also as an adult.
Since everyone is different, what calms you and helps you move through your emotions, won’t necessarily work for a child.
During one of my presentations, a young student shared that counting helps calm him. I replied with ‘counting to ten is a great strategy.’ He said, ‘No – random numbers…10, 18, 52, 6, 103, 186…’
Imagine that he is in the throes of an emotion and someone starts counting…one, two, three, etc. Instead of calming him, his emotional state would heighten from the frustration, as he’d feel that what truly helps him isn’t being honoured – random numbers.
This is why it’s so important to know beforehand what works best for each child when they are experiencing an emotion. Ask them what they find helpful.
Then create a list of their ways so you know what to suggest when emotions arise. Post the list somewhere that will serve as a reminder for both you and them.
This is what I know: Being mindful of the ways that work best to support a child’s emotional needs, shows them that you are being empathetic and attentive. This builds connection.
Until next time…
3 May 2023
Does Your Child Compare Themselves to Others?
I recently heard this comment from a student, ‘I look around at others and they seem to have it all. Things would be easier if I could be them. I know I would be happier.’
This is what I know: It’s OK to admire others. The danger occurs when kids believe that they would be happier if they were someone else.
People’s lives often look better from the outside. They might post perfect pictures on social media or it may seem that things come easily to them or that they are happy all the time. Reminding our children that everyone has challenges and everyone experiences difficult emotions is essential to their overall well-being.
Instead of envying others, we must model and teach kids to choose to work on being the best person that they can be – to take pride in who they are and their uniqueness. Defining who they are and the character traits that are important to them helps build confidence, self-acceptance and resilience.
Here is an affirmation exercise to help your kids admire and love who they are:
Starting with ‘I am _____________and I am enough’, ask them to fill in the blank with the answer to this question: What do you want to believe about YOU? Some examples of what they could put in the blank are: confident, thoughtful, accepting, empathetic, kind.
Once completed, place it somewhere so that it is a visual reminder of what they want to believe about themselves.
Have your child repeat it daily. This will remind them that they are important, that they are somebody. It will create a feeling of happiness and pride the more they repeat and believe it.
Teaching children to celebrate and be proud of who they are compared to no one else, boosts their self-esteem, self-confidence and will ultimately make them feel capable of navigating day-to-day challenges and emotions.
Until next time…
19 Apr 2023
How does role-playing help kids deal with challenging circumstances?
Unexpected challenges will happen and it’s easy for those challenges to stop kids in their tracks. Although you can’t save children from every challenging situation, you can give a beneficial tool to help them better navigate the challenges and choices they will face.
The next time your child is struggling with how to handle a situation or not sure what choice to make, try role-playing. It gives your child’s brain a blueprint of what they can choose to do.
Role-playing also gives them:
a safe space to express themselves
a sense of control and calm as they work through their emotions
an opportunity to problem-solve as they act out the solutions to the situations.
A few days ago, my son Kai came home from school upset. There was something going on at school so he vented about the circumstance. Then, of course you know me, I asked what emotions it triggered. We talked about his emotions and then we role-played the circumstance.
I said, ‘Kai you be you & I will be the other person.’ I acted out my role in the circumstance he was facing at school and as he acted out what he was going to choose to do or say, I could see relief and less stress on his face. Then we reversed roles. We even started being silly by changing our voices. We both laughed. It was a way to add some humour to a serious situation.
The more fun you make role-playing, the more it will put your child at ease and the more they will enjoy doing it.
Until next time…
8 Mar 2023
Can Compliments Cultivate Kids Confidence?
We want kids to be confident enough to give a compliment and to receive one.
However, their role models (the adults in their life) may respond to a compliment with, ‘No I’m not.’ By responding this way, it models to children to deflect the compliment which doesn’t allow those kinds words to be absorbed and used to cultivate confidence.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW:
If a person gives a compliment, it means that they have taken the time to recognize you.
When you receive a compliment, model fully accepting it by choosing to smile and say thank you.
Share with your kids how those compliments made you feel and why you appreciate them.
When kids hear and see this as a way to respond to a thoughtful compliment, it teaches them to confidently do the same.
Modelling and teaching children to not only graciously receive a compliment but also to give one is an important part of their emotional and social development.
Too often we keep compliments to ourselves rather than letting others know what we are thinking or we brush off the compliment given to us rather than being grateful for the praise we have received.
When my son tells me something complimentary about someone, I let him know that saying the compliment directly to the person is a way of celebrating them. I remind him that accepting a compliment is a way others celebrate him.
Challenge yourself and your children to give and receive compliments throughout the day that not only show you appreciate others but you also appreciate yourself.
Compliments have power for both the giver and the receiver to enhance emotional and mental well-being and boost confidence.
Until next time…
15 Feb 2023
Kids: Fitting In vs Being Their True Self
I received this question from a student who wanted to take a stand but was afraid if she did, she would no longer be fitting in.
Q: On my bus I sit with my friend who is very opinionated. There’s another girl on the bus that my friend really doesn’t like and makes rude comments to her. I feel bad about how my friend treats her. I often nod my head in agreement to my friend’s comments, not because I want to hurt the other girl, but because I want my friend to like me. I find myself trying to fit in with her. What should I do?
A: It’s so easy to get caught up with disrespectful and rude behaviour, especially when you are trying to ‘fit in’ and be liked.
When I look back on times in school that I didn’t speak up against disrespect I realize that:
I worried about what my friends would think of me if I said something.
I wanted to be liked and to fit in.
It seemed easier to go along with it.
Taking an action that you think may cause you to be left out, made fun of, disliked or be embarrassed by, is something we all try to avoid.
Here’s a question you to ask yourself: ‘Am I being true to myself by choosing not to say or do anything about my friend’s behaviour?’
I can always tell when I’m not being true to myself because I’ll hear a little nagging voice inside my head saying, ‘Why did you do that? Why didn’t you say something?’ causing me to feel guilt and regret for my actions.
#1 – End Result – to be someone who always tries to be liked by everyone no matter what.
#2 – End Result – to be a respectful person to myself and others and stay true to myself.
Picture two people in the same circumstance that you have shared with me. One person has End Result
#1 and the other has End Result #2. Do you think that they would make the same choice even though they are in the same circumstance? No, their choices would be very different!
#1’s choices would be to do whatever was needed to ‘fit in’ and be liked – even at the cost of hurting others and their own confidence.
#2’s choice would show that they are someone who is willing to take a stand for what’s right and what they believe even if it’s not the popular choice – even though it may feel scary.
#2’s confidence will grow while #1’s confidence will start to diminish.
Decide who you want to be – your character – your end result – then make choices from that place. If you are being kind, what choice would you make? If you are being brave, what choice would you make?
Write it out and put it somewhere you can see it. This will give you the focus, direction and confidence you will need so that you don’t change who you are in order to fit in. (video)
Until next time…
18 Jan 2023
Tips to Helping Kids Ride the Waves of Emotions
Kids tell me they don’t like feeling tough emotions like anger, sadness, guilt, frustration and disappointment because – not only is it uncomfortable – they also think, ‘this is it, this is how I’m always going to feel.’
A few weeks ago, my 10-year-old son was so upset. I could see him desperately trying to hold back his tears. I said, ‘It’s OK to cry.’ He gave me a frustrated look and said, ‘I don’t like feeling this feeling.’ which triggered him to cry causing him to get even more upset.
Think back to when you were a kid… didn’t tough emotions and challenging times feel permanent?
Later that night when he was in a calmer state, we had a reflective conversation. I asked, ‘How are you feeling now?’ He replied, ‘I’m feeling happy.’
I asked, ‘How were you feeling this morning?’
‘Upset, frustrated and angry.’
‘Did you think those emotions were going to last forever?’ he responded with a resounding ‘YES!’
‘And how are you feeling now?’
‘So did that feeling of sadness last forever?’
He thought about it and firmly said ‘NO!’
We then had a conversation about other times in his life where he faced a challenge or made a mistake and it triggered emotions. I reminded him that he always got through them including now.
Even though we may not like feeling the emotions brought on by challenging circumstances, they can’t be avoided no matter how hard we try. Sometimes they get really intense and then subside like waves. We need to teach kids to be like a surfer and ride the ‘waves’ of their emotions.
Tips to help kids ride the waves by:
talking about how ‘it’s OK to feel all emotions’
giving them a safe space to feel without criticism or trying to fix how they feel
reminding them they can get through tough emotions
exploring various strategies that will help them work through their emotions when they are in a calm state
Helping kids ride the waves of emotions is not only important for their overall well-being, it will also help them through the challenges they will experience throughout their life.
Until next time…
23 Nov 2022
“Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Hurtful words do hurt!
They can have a devastating impact on a child’s mental and emotional well-being. They can leave them feeling rejected, embarrassed, discouraged, anxious and can affect their self-esteem, self-worth and identity.
After one of my presentations a young lady shared that she was being called fat and she didn’t know what to do. It happens way too often to both girls and boys!
I shared an activity that has helped me, my son and others bounce back from hurtful words.
The goal is to take the hurtful word – in this case F.A.T. – and change it to a meaning that strengthens confidence and resilience, which is beneficial for both mental and emotional health. When you encourage kids to practice this, they will start to see themselves differently.
They will learn that what they say to themselves is in their control and what they choose to tell themselves matters.
F.A.T. could mean
Fabulously. Awesome. Teen.
Fun. And. Talented.
Fit. And. Toned.
Apply One of the Options Below Using the New Meaning to the hurtful word.
Option 1 – ‘You are right! I am a Fabulously Awesome Teen!’ (or the meaning they have created) Since the person delivering the hurtful words is not getting the reaction they expected, there is a good chance they will eventually get bored and stop.
Option 2 – If saying, ‘You are right! I am a Fabulously Awesome Teen!’ feels uncomfortable, then just repeat, ‘I am a Fabulously Awesome Teen!’ to yourself as you walk away.
For every word that hurts, take each letter and have it stand for a positive, empowering meaning. Then use option 1 or 2 with the new meaning.
The more kids hear their own voice saying encouraging words, the more their self-worth will shine!
Until next time…
9 Nov 2022
Kids want you to know…
‘I really enjoyed your presentation. It opened a few doors for me. This past year I went through some problems but your presentation showed me another way of looking at my problems. You really helped me to know that my feelings big or small are normal and that it’s okay to feel.’ – Male Student
Sometimes kids think they should only feel HAPPY because they believe that is the only way people will accept them.
Kids tell me that when they hear, ‘It’s OK to feel what you are feeling’, they know they have been respected and validated – that they have been given the space to express and share their emotions.
Space to feel gives space to heal.
Practicing ‘space’ builds connection (1 min video). It allows kids to feel comforted, supported, and more open to finding ways to move with and through their emotions.
Remind them that feeling a wide range of emotions is natural and normal and that we accept them no matter how they are feeling.
The more we choose to step outside our comfort zone by acknowledging and sharing our own emotions, we model and teach them that… ‘It’s OK to feel what you are feeling‘.
Until next time…
12 Oct 2022
How to Help a Child’s Negative Self-Talk
Kids are constantly encountering new experiences and challenges which can trigger uncomfortable emotions causing them to speak negatively about themselves. No one wants to hear a child putting themselves down.
Positive self-talk is about speaking to themselves with compassion, empathy, kindness and respect.
Benefits of Positive Self-Talk
Enhances emotional & mental well-being
Boosts confidence in their own abilities
Influences their choices & decisions
Tips to Promote Positive Self-Talk
Emotions – Kids want to know that they are not bad, nor wrong for feeling how they feel. We all feel a wide range of emotions. They can feel angry, frustrated, disappointed and still show respect for themselves, others and their dreams. Kids need to be reminded, ‘It’s ok to feel.’ These words provide both comfort, validation and connection.
Reframing – Redirect their thoughts by asking them questions like: ‘What is one lesson you learned from this experience?’ or ‘Who could you ask to help support you?’ or ‘ What could you do differently the next time?’ Helping them see the circumstance through a different lens helps them to learn and grow.
Model positive self-talk – Modelling what you want children to learn is the best way to teach. If you find you are putting yourself down, admit it. Use it as a teachable moment. Let’s face it – we’re not perfect! Let them know what you wish you would have said.
Recognize their talents & strengths – Even though it’s important for them to recognize negative thoughts and uncomfortable feelings, they can learn to reframe their mindset and focus on their strengths. Have them create a list of their talents & strengths to have a visual reminder.
Gratitude – Choosing to focus on something they are grateful for is a powerful mindset shift that helps them bounce back from challenging times and move though tough emotions. Since their brain can only focus on one thought at a time, choosing to look at what they are grateful for (especially during difficult times and mistakes made) is a powerful practice that strengthens resilience. Ask them, ‘What could you be grateful for from the challenge or mistake?‘
Over time what children repeat determines their belief about themselves and their abilities. Below is a list of phrases your child/student can use to remind them that what they say matters to their confidence, resilience & well-being.