A friend recently shared an editorial from the New York Times entitled: Sheryl Sandberg: How to Build Resilient Kids, Even after a Loss.
In it, Sandberg highlighted the importance of helping children develop the strength they need to overcome the many big and small obstacles they will experience in life. She acknowledged that parents, teachers and caregivers want to promote resiliency in kids. “The good news is that resilience isn’t a fixed personality trait; we’re not born with a set amount of it. Resilience is a muscle we can help kids build.”
One of the things that struck me about her article was the emphasis on letting kids know they matter, they have a place in the world, and make a difference to others.
How often do we as parents clearly transmit the message, “You matter?” Think about the last time you said to your child, “You matter to me.” “My life is better because you are in it.” “The world is a better place because you are here.”
Even better than these general statements that emphasize to a child that he or she matters and has worth are when specific examples are included:
- “When you sit on my lap and snuggle up to me, it warms my heart makes me realize just how lucky I am to have you in my life.”
- “You are helping your little brother feel safe when you hold hands and make sure he doesn’t talk to strangers when I am busy picking out food for our cart.”
- When you helped your friend finish his project at school, he was able to feel successful and proud of what he had accomplished.”
- “Every day I thank God that you are a part of this family. You make us all smile when you share your stories, and you make us all feel so proud when you decide to help the other children in your class. Because of you, our family is more fun and is helping the world be a better place.”
The research shows, Ms. Sanders points out, how when children believe they matter, they are less likely to suffer from depression, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. They are less rebellious, less likely to participate in illegal or harmful behaviors, and overall have better mental health. What powerful, positive impact receiving affirmations that communicate, “You matter” can have! And it doesn’t cost us a thing but a few moments to be intentional about transmitting these messages.
Know that when you communicate these kinds of affirmations to your children, you may or may not see any outward signs of them having a deep effect.
We often cannot definitively tell when we communicate with children, or basically anyone, that a message is getting through or the impact it might be having. Those messages that communicate “You matter” have the power to impact a child in his or her deep inner core self.
Upon hearing them, it is likely your children are absorbing some of the many benefits of knowing they are valued and have a positive impact on the world even if they don’t turn to you and say, “Gee, thanks! You are helping my mental health become stronger”
Know that you matter in the lives of your children even as you help them to understand how they matter in your life and to the world.
Invitation to Reflect
- When you were growing up, did the people who were important in your life communicate these kind of positive affirmations to you? If so, how has that impacted your life? If not, how might your life have been different if you had heard these kinds of messages from significant adults around you?
- What are some specific messages you can communicate to your children that basically affirm their importance?
- What do you guess might be the impact on each child with whom you share these positive affirmations?
Diane Wagenhals, Director of Institute for Professional Education and Development, Lakeside Educational Network
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