If you are a parent, who gets lost in the routine of day to day tasks, work, stress, parenting, and feeling distant from yourself, this is for you. This article serves to empower you to focus on yourself and get back in tune with you. The best way you can be there for your children is to prioritize yourself, so you can be present and show up for your child.
“As children develop, their brains “mirror” their parent’s brain… The parent’s own growth and development, or lack of those, impact the child’s brain. As parents become more aware and more emotionally healthy, their children reap the reward and move towards health” (Siegel, 2012). This quote comes from psychiatrist Dan Siegel, who is an award winning educator as well as author and expert in the field of childhood mental health. So let’s break this down into an example for parents reading this article.
Let’s say you are a mother, and you are struggling with body image and self-acceptance. You may say something like “I am not going to eat sugar or carbs for the next week. I feel fat and ugly. I need to diet”. Without realizing it, you say this out loud in front of your 10 year old daughter, who looks up to you as her mother. This statement somewhat embodies low self-esteem, and this may be absorbed by your daughter. The focus of this article is to highlight how important it is to be mindful of how you present yourself and take care of yourself, and how this translates to parenting and your child’s mental health. The goal is to model healthy self-esteem and self-confidence, which will be emulated by your child.
Self-esteem is defined as “the individual’s subjective evaluation of her or his worth as a person” (Trzesniewski , Donnellan , & Robins 2013). Essentially, self-esteem is the way we view ourselves. High self-esteem has positive correlations with an individual’s success in relationships, health, and belief in trying new things (Krauss, Orth & Robbins, 2020). Research has shown the extreme importance of family environment and parental relationships in regards to a child’s self-esteem development.
In this article, I encourage you (as the parent or caregiver) to think about how you view yourself and show up for yourself in difficult moments in the hopes that you can embody positive self-talk to your child. As a child and teen therapist, I want to encourage parents and caregivers to think about their level of confidence and self-esteem. Are you still struggling with wounds and self-worth? If so, I want to embolden you to engage in self-care and self-love, and to treat yourself kindly. You have to fill yourself up and be kind to yourself to be the best parent you can be.
I know that parents are busy with working and being a parent, but self-care can be modeled through how you talk to yourself. It is crucial for a parent to practice self-compassion and be aware of their individual needs before they can fully show up for their children (Hofmeyer, Taylor, & Kennedy 2020). Self-compassion refers to the way an individual talks and relates to themselves when they are experiencing a perceived failure. When an individual practices self-compassion, they offer the same loving and kindness that they would to someone they care deeply about (a friend or family member) (Neff, 2011). It has been shown that individuals who identify as “self-compassionate” have superior physical health and stronger relationships. Self-compassionate individuals have reported experiencing less rumination, anxiety, shame, and feelings of failure (Hofmeyer, Taylor, & Kennedy, 2020).
This information highlights how valuable it is to embody self compassion in the home, so your child can essentially mirror and mimic the way in which you as the parent speak to yourself during a difficult time. This modeling will help your child learn how to create a positive inner dialogue from an early age, when the brain is most moldable (Kolb & Gibb, 2011).
The most important place and environment in which a child develops their self-esteem is in their family system (Krauss, Orth, & Robins 2020). “When parents don’t take responsibility for their own unfinished business, they miss an opportunity not only to become better parents but also to continue their own development. People who remain in the dark about the origins of their behaviors and intense emotional responses are unaware of their unresolved issues and the parental ambivalence they create” (Siegel, 2013). This quote is from another one of Dan Siegel’s books, and it demonstrates that when a parent is wounded from their past, and doesn’t take the steps to heal themselves, it can ultimately harm their child.
So, what should you as a parent do if you are feeling disconnected from yourself, engaging in negative self talk, and wondering what steps to take?
I will offer you two helpful “Hannah’s Hint’s” to guide you towards leaning into self-love and self-care.
- First, think about the ways that you engage in self-care and how you, as an individual, show up for yourself. There is a “Mindful Self-Care Assessment” that is a “validated and standardized” way to measure the strengths and weaknesses one associates with taking care of oneself. Take this assessment and really consider what you need to do to prioritize yourself, even if it is a small thing — like doing a 5-minute meditation in the day or going to a workout class with the intention of feeling good.
- Be intentional and mindful in the way you speak about yourself in front of your children (even when you are on the phone with a friend or talking to your partner). For example, if you are feeling off one day, you can speak to yourself compassionately, like “Mom does not feel like her best self today, but that’s okay. I still love who I am and am going to treat myself with kindness today!” Research shows that higher self-esteem in children is directly correlated with both parental affection and communication (Stackhouse, 2004). If your child is present, they are absorbing and paying attention to what you are saying.
Parenting practices play a critical role in how their child develops their sense of self and self-esteem (Ollendick & Benoit, 2012). I wrote this article to highlight some common themes that I see in my clinical work with children and teens. I have personally seen how children are affected by parents who have high self-esteem and confidence, and children with parents who are less mindful and present with their children. I want this to empower all parents to remember that you are a human who has gone through difficult things, but you can continue to develop and be there for yourself, and reflect this for your children. Go take care of you!