Improve your kids self confidence forever, at any age.

August 2013
Greetings.  It’s August already and about time for school to start again.
As I see all the school preparation starting to build I remember all
the years I was very busy during this time.
Now that I am out of the “school loop”, I reflect back on the anxiety I had as a mom of school aged kids.  The frenzy of getting school supplies, earlier bedtimes, new classes, new teacher, new friends and the morning rituals to get everyone out the door on time, but most of all, will my child be treated right by all those they encounter at school. It can be a stressful time.
Emotions run high as something new begins.  It can be a mixed bag of excitement and fear due to the element of the unknown.  We instinctively fear the unknown as it makes us feel vulnerable and we hate that.  Remember that your child, at any age, often feels vulnerable and longs for safety, just like you do.
That’s where you come in!  
As a mom you have an incredible opportunity to make your child more self confident and feel worthwhile.  In an effort to keep up with the Jones’s and make sure your child is performing as they “should” it’s easy to forget that these are little people who need you to be mom, their advocate and their safe place.  Being that safe place for them in the midst of all the unknown is critical for their self esteem.  
Here are some powerful practices that can make a difference in your child’s confidence and ultimately their ability to become the best they can be.  These tools and skills can build trust, self esteem,a rock solid belief in themselves and navigational skills for future vulnerable situations.
 
1.  Listen:  No matter what age your child is, give them permission to feel what they feel and help them navigate through them.  By listening you validate their feelings letting them them know it’s ok to feel them.
Feelings are meant to be felt in order to help you get in touch with the conflict inside and come up with ways to resolve it.  When my son was in the 3rd grade he had a traumatic experience at school and when telling me about it he said he hated a certain kid.  Instead of listening I quickly said, “Oh, it isn’t right to hate someone.  You can’t do that.”  I totally missed it.  I cut him off by telling him he “shouldn’t hate”.  How can a 8 year old boy stop feeling hate without a safe place to process his feelings? Not being allowed to safely let it out intensified his trauma and the incident effected him a long time.
By creating a safe place to process you build a strong relationship of trust and allow them to practice effective strategies to become self confident. When they express their worries about riding the bus, running into the bully again, having a teacher they don’t like or who they will sit with at lunch, be available to listen instead of simply telling them it will be ok or how they “should” feel.
Even when you can’t change it for them, be their supporter and let them express what is behind the emotion.  Then you give them a safe space to be real and that is hard for kids these days to find.
2.  Respond instead of reacting:
When you react to what you child shares by interrupting them, telling them what they did wrong or that they “shouldn’t” feel that way, they immediately know it is a not a safe place.  They shut down and constructive communication is broken.  Start practicing hearing what they say, respecting it and reassuring them that you are there to support them. You may even want to wait to discuss it when you are more clear headed and can give them that safety net of being present.  This is especially good with older kids.
Surely you have had times that you feel something and aren’t sure why. Having someone to listen, support and help you process is invaluable.
As my kids became teenagers lots of processing was done while driving in the car instead of in the moment.   They were much more comfortable and opened up in the car than in a fact to face encounter and we could discuss in a much more productive way.
Teaching your child that feelings are important no matter what they are, will help them learn how to deal with them.  When they experience being cut off or made to feel “wrong”, confusion and distrust begins to creep in. Distrust of themselves because they do feel that and by ignoring it they have to deny it’s there.  That is betraying yourself.   Most of us learned early on not to trust our own feelings and have had a lifetime of betraying ourselves and our feelings.  No matter how irrational or silly their feelings seem to you, remember they are very real to them, as yours are to you. One of the most incredible gifts you can give your child is believing and trusting themselves.
Instead of reacting, try responding with a question.  A great one is “tell me more about that”.  This keeps them talking, you learn more about the situation and have time to process so you can respond, not react.
Reaction often shuts them down, where responding keeps the lines of communication open.
3.  Assure them you have their back:
Knowing that you are there for them no matter what, grounds them.  In a
world of school violence, bullying and academic pressure they need to know they have a safe place to be respected and heard. When you listen to their hearts and emotions they know intuitively that you can be counted on.
Vulnerability comes when we are not sure what to expect and having to face that unknown.  Kids today have so much to feel vulnerable about and they need to know they can come to you with anything and you will listen and not discount them.  Starting this at a young age is best but what if your child is older?  Can you start now? Of course you can.  It may not be easy, but as mom you can always take the lead and make anything in your relationships change for the better, so simply begin to extend the gift of listening and respect.
4.  Be consistent:
One of the hardest things about being a parent is consistency.  If you are not skilled in listening to your child and validating them, take some time to shift your own intentions and dare to start.  Remember how much changes for you when you are heard and extend that same gift to your child.
I know many times I didn’t listen to my kids because I was thinking of how their feelings and actions would reflect on me as their mother.  When I made the mental switch from, how does this make me look to, how can I help them grow stronger and more self assured, boy did things change.  I was much more compassionate, supportive and loving because it wasn’t about me but them.
Being heard builds:
*self confidence
*self trust
*courage
*belief in yourself
*independence
*better decision making
*ability to accept change
*personal worth and value
*motivation and inspiration
As you consistently practice respect in communication by listening, reassuring and responding, your child can relax knowing when you are around they are safe. Think back on your childhood and reflect on the person who made you feel safe.  I bet they listened to you and validated you which made you feel respected and worthwhile.
In a world of distrust, disconnection and disillusionment it can seem impossible to find that safe place, especially for our children who are thrust in the middle of much of this as they go to school.  Sadly children are subjected to horrors that we never want them to experience just by being in school.  Make sure you are there to be that safe place for them to process when they get in the car or off the bus.  Let them know that how they feel and what they say matters to you, no matter what it is.  When you get to the bottom of things many times it is much different than the initial story when you allow it to all come out.
Your child can grow up to be discerning, employ critical thinking and believe in themselves.  By you simply listening, respecting and validating their feelings you give them the space to believe it is possible to be a strong, loving, confident kid.  This kind of support can make a world of difference now and for the rest of their life and that is what every mother ultimately wants for their child, isn’t it?

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