Many tweens, boys and girls alike, are in the beginning stages of “finding themselves.” A tough time it is for these kids and those who care for them. Now begins the incessant phase of “Martin is stronger than me,” and “Alya is smarter than me,” jibber-jabber. Comparisons are widespread at this age and so is self-deprecation. All children doubt themselves, but those with high levels of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth don’t stay stuck here for long. They can already sense their own personal power and that power is unique to them.
Those whose self-levels are not quite so high or are downright low are the ones who need help in seeing just how special and unique they truly are. It is not uncommon for a tween, we will call her Becka, to see her classmate, Stella, doing the same activities, making the same grades, living the same lifestyle she does. She begins to look at herself as “nothing special.” Individuals such as Becka should be reminded that she is missing a huge element in this formula or worth she has created for herself. That element is experience.
Why Is Experience Important?
When all other things are exactly the same, our life experiences come along and guarantee that we will not react the same way, not work the same way, not live the same way, or not believe in exactly the same things. Each of us is one-of-a-kind and has something to offer this world that no one else can. This is a great discovery, and understanding this concept can, in itself, raise a child’s positive self-levels.
Self-esteem in girls today peaks at ages as young as nine. And for so many, it remains lost to them until their late teens or early twenties. That is unacceptable to me and most likely to anyone with a child in this position. It is true that boys, in general, have higher positive self-levels at this age, but don’t think for a moment they are immune to the self-loathing monster. Do you ever hear your child speak negatively about himself? What is he saying to himself non-verbally? It is absolutely imperative that this type of negative behavior ceases.
As parents and caregivers, we need to spend time with our children, showing them in as many ways as we can what makes them unlike anyone else and how we appreciate the qualities that make them who they are. There are enormous struggles in the life of today’s tweens, and finding ways to build their positive self-levels can be challenging.
For some, it may simply take a parent’s willingness to spend time listening, engaging, and guiding their child to better understand his gifts and talents. For others, it may take an outside resource or activity with peers to reinforce these self-levels. And still for others, it may take all of the above and perhaps other creative ways to show your child just how magnificent they are and can be. Be bold. Tell them how you are truly unique!
A Few Other Ideas
Our thoughts and notions about who we are create our future. Our minds cannot be positive and negative at the same time. As silly as it may sound, reciting a positive affirmation over and over again replaces the negativity, even if for only a brief moment. Those brief moments grow in number as does the belief in the positive affirmation. Positivity begins to replace negativity and positive self-levels begin to blossom and grow. Here are some examples:
- “I like myself.”
- “I am unique and have something special to share with the world.”
- “I am a good friend.”
The key to affirmations working is two-fold. One, as you say the words to your affirmation, you must inject the positive feeling that goes with it. Two, repetition with enthusiasm–verbally, mentally, or written–ten or more times a day. Say them out loud as often as possible with feeling. Help your child create her own positive declarations. For more ideas on affirmations, check out www.creativeaffirmations.com.
A Little Goes a Long Way
It is a rare child who requires no affirmation from anyone and is able to maintain high positive self-levels. Even if you happen to have this rare breed of tween living in your household, let them know how special they are. A little positivity goes a long way. And for those of us who have tweens struggling with their identities, we must hang in there at all costs if we want our children to be well-adjusted or simply better-adjusted teens. This is an on-going process. They are struggling and the ones they lash out at are the ones they love and know who love them. Our patience and understanding is often tested beyond reasonability. We must, nonetheless, ask questions and listen to the answers and the tones in their voices. This can be quite revealing and may provide an entry point for the uniqueness conversation or its reinforcement. We must listen carefully. Only then can we determine if our child needs more than what we, as parents, have to offer.
We, as adults, are susceptible to this same negative self-loathing. Are we doing the very thing we are trying to eliminate in our children? Food for thought…
Shine Your Light — Annie M