My Best Friend

This week’s guest post is by Cammie Freitag. We hope that you find it useful and look forward to future posts from Cammie.

Do you remember when you were younger? The feelings of love you had for your family and friends? Do you remember beaming with pride as you stated, “this is my best friend?” Now think: do you remember feeling that way about yourself? I had all I needed except for one crucial thing; love for myself.

My mom and dad tried the hardest they could to provide me with all that I needed. I always had food and clothing (even if they were hand-me-downs). So then, how did that critical piece of emotional health, self-love, ended up missing from my upbringing? I can’t say exactly. Sure, I could speculate all day but it wouldn’t make a smidge of a difference. What I had to learn—through excruciatingly poor choices, self-hate and hard life lessons—was how the heck to love myself and talk to myself like I would to my best friend. I’m not always as kind to myself as I should be, but I’m leaps and bounds ahead of the girl I used to be.

Once I had my own child, I made it my mission to teach him how to love himself. I thought that if I could teach him only that, he would have an incredible resource within himself to help him through any and all life struggles; especially mistakes! I once read somewhere that “the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice”. If this is true, that puts a lot of pressure on parents! But it does make you think, doesn’t it? Hopefully most of us wouldn’t use cruel and hurtful language with our kids, such as, “you’re dumb” or, “you’re just a bad kid.” But even the more subtle messages can set a negative tone for our child’s developing inner voice. If you’re sending messages such as, “What’s the matter with you?” or “Why do you always…” what is that really saying to our children? I think it is telling them that they aren’t “okay” the way that they are. This damaging message can affect the way children view themselves. If a child starts to believe they aren’t “okay” the way they are, how can they possibly love themselves?

I’m not saying that we can’t address our child’s behaviors when they arise. But we can do so with a positive approach. Instead of using broad negative statements, let’s figure out what’s going on with them. Ask them how they are feeling. If your child is acting out in an “ugly” way, say something like, “I notice you’re not acting like yourself, can you tell me how you are feeling?” Letting our children know that these behaviors aren’t a part of who they are can show them that we all act in ways that are hurtful or “ugly” but that it is not who we are. That it’s normal and okay to have those feelings; it’s just what we do with those feelings that really matter. And if we do slip and act in a way that isn’t so nice, we can make sure to apologize! Apologizing to our kids teaches them that even big people make mistakes and that when we do, we can recognize it, say we’re sorry, and attempt to repair it. So let’s try to monitor the way we talk to our kids and always be sending the message, “You’re perfect just the way you are”.

Cammie Freitag is an In-home Safety & Reunification Services Advocate at Family Tree Relief Nursery.